Match report: Exeter Chiefs Women 64 - 5 Sale Sharks Women


Caroline Moore at Sandy Park

This was the third encounter between Exeter Chiefs Women and their Sale Sharks counterparts this season. This one was played with a fulsome West Grandstand crowd enjoying some winter sun as they turned out to watch their home team score 10 tries, including a hat-trick for winger Eilidh Sinclair.

Chiefs' dominance at scrum time and in the lineout wore down a Sale team that leaked multiple penalties and were punished with two yellow cards. This gifted Chiefs the lion’s share of possession and territory but also led to moments of individual tenacity that also made Sharks pay.

You need not look too much further for tenacity than winger Claudia MacDonald. Having had frustratingly little time on the ball at Bristol, she made up for it on home turf. A Cli Moloney lineout throw to lock Linde van der Velden saw the ball released to flanker Ebony Jefferies who powered through the middle to the delight of the crowd. When the ball fell into MacDonald’s hands, she was ready to speed down the left wing and over the try-line. Gabby Cantorna kicked the conversion and Chiefs were up 7-0 after 14 minutes.

Another lineout was the catalyst for Chiefs’ second score. The ball was passed through the hands and back again, before the forwards bustled their way to the line to send over prop Hope Rogers.

Sale were not going to let Chiefs have it all their own way though. There is quality in that squad with fly-half Beatrice Rigoni busy all afternoon, However, it was centre Katana Howard’s lovely, floated pass to winger Lauren Delaney that resulted in their try. 

Chiefs did not dwell on this defensive breach for long. The third try of the afternoon went to Chiefs’ other winger Eilidh Sinclair. No 8 Rachel Johnson trucked it up through the middle and scrum-half Brooke Bradley, playing in her 50th game for the club, kicked the ball across the pitch. Sinclair thought it was going into touch but quickly whipped round to catch it after it bounced in field, fought her way out of contact, and scampered in!

Chiefs managed to secure the try bonus point by half-time after some quick ball and a kick ahead from centre Kanako Kobayashi sent MacDonald down the wing for her second try of the afternoon. The score at half-time was 28-5.

First scrum of the second half saw Chiefs push Sale off the ball in the latter’s own scrum. This was illustrative of the punishing effort Chiefs would inflict on their visitors, scoring five more tries.

The first one went to hooker Moloney after she charged through the slimmest of spaces from the back of a ruck. 

A yellow card for prop Catie Benson compounded Sale’s difficulties and Chiefs began to run riot with replacement prop DaLeaka Menin leading the way with a scything run into Sale’s 22 to almost send over captain Poppy Leitch.

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Claudia MacDonald scored two tries against Sale

A cracking run from Bradley then got the backs going with full-back Merryn Doidge passing out to Sinclair for her second try and an amazing touchline conversion from Gabby Cantorna.

Menin got a well-deserved try after her efforts minutes earlier, after Moloney caught a Rigoni's restart kick. She passed to prop Abby Middlebrooke who propelled the ball to Cantorna, who found the Canadian powerhouse.

Fellow replacement Harriet Millar-Mills was not to be outdone. A searching chip kick from Kobayashi almost saw Danielle Preece over the line but she brought down just short, and Millar-Mills spotted the gap!

As the game entered its last 10 minutes, flanker Taz Bricknell looked like her turn of speed would be enough for Chiefs’ eighth score but Sale stood firm and held the ball up.

A second yellow card for Sale's Vicky E Irwin made life even tougher for Sale and, at this point, Cantorna and van der Velden were just rampaging around for fun, allowing Sinclair to help herself to a true team try and her hat-trick.

With Chiefs chucking the ball about and the clock ticking down, there was time for one more with fly-half Robyn Wilkins the scorer.

This game provided a win, a bonus-point, a landmark appearance, a hat-trick, some exceptional kicking, and great entertainment. More of the same in two weeks' time against Harlequins please!

Exeter Chiefs Women: M Doidge (vc); E Sinclair, K Kobayashi, G Cantorna, C MacDonald (D Preece 49mins); R Wilkins, B Bradley; H Rogers (A Middlebrooke 58mins), C Moloney (D French 72mins), L Hanlon (D Menin 51mins), L van der Velden, P Leitch (c), E Jefferies (H Millar-Mills 51mins), M Allen (T Bricknell 58mins), R Johnson (K Smith 70-78mins (M Allen 78mins)).

Tries: MacDonald (2), Rogers, Sinclair (3), Moloney, Menin, Millar-Mills, Wilkins

Cons: Cantorna (7)

Sale Sharks Women: V A Irwin; L Delaney (cc), E Ramsbottom (N Prothero 66mins), K Howard, K Howard, R Woosey; B Rigoni, M Grieve (w Bell 59mins); A Young (C Benson 51mins), N Swailes (A Schonert 42mins), D Harper (N James 51mins), E Jarrell, I Antwis (P Bowman 59mins), K Searcy, G Perris-Reading (cc), J Brown (V E Irwin 59mins)

Try: Delaney

Yellow cards: C Benson (54mins), V E Irwin (78mins)

Referee: Hamish Grant

Attendance: 1, 366

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