No complaints from Appleby after defeat
By Harry Scott-Munro
Exeter Chiefs Women’s head coach Susie Appleby has called on her side to finish their debut season in the Allianz Premier 15s on a high, after they saw their hopes of reaching the play-offs finally extinguished with a last-gasp defeat at Sale Sharks.
Holly Bawden’s last-gasp try ensured the Sharks gained revenge for their earlier season defeat by the Chiefs as they edged this return fixture 17-10 at Haywood Road.
The Sharks had been in the ascendency for most of the match thanks to a try from Lisa Neumann, alongside a penalty and a conversion from Katy Daley-McLean, only for the Chiefs to draw level thanks to a converted try from Sachiko Kato and a penalty from leading scorer Gabby Cantorna.
With the game heading for a draw however, it was the Sharks who produced the deadly bite, Bawden picking off a pass to score with the last play of the game.
Post-game, Appleby admitted that her side ‘weren’t at the races’ but paid tribute to the performance of the Sharks.
“Sale were exceptional,” she said. “We knew they were getting better and better and gaining momentum. Whether we gave them the full respect pre-match that they deserved, I don’t know. They were outstanding, particularly around the breakdown, so I always give full credit to the opposition and they deserved to win and we didn’t.”
That breakdown dominance for the hosts allowed experienced fly-half Daley-McLean to run the game from 10, continually pinning the Chiefs back with a series of accurate kicks.
“Obviously Katy (Daley-Mclean) with her kicking game was pinning us all over the field,” added Applebu. “However, we just made uncharacteristic mistakes. We tried to force things a bit that weren’t on and we just weren’t on our game, which you have to be against any team in this league.”
Defeat for the Chiefs mathematically ends any hopes of securing a play-off spot, but Appleby is desperate to ensure her side bag a top five finish. Battling for that honour also are Gloucester-Hartpury, who provide the opposition on the final match of the season.
With just three points separating the two sides, Appleby says it will be a mouth-watering fixture to wrap up her side’s first season.
“Bringing Gloucester to us in the final game, we want to finish the season strongly,” she continued. “We’ve had some outstanding performances. Today was not one of them, but that happens when you’re evolving as a side. We all take responsibility for what happens on the pitch, but I know we’ll be better and we’ll grow.”
When pressed on the aspects her side will need to improve upon, the head coach admitted that “the breakdown stands out by a mile.”
“It’s three weeks away and we’re at home, which is nice,” said Appleby. “From here, we’ll look at ourselves again and do what we’ve done all season, which is see where we can be better. We’ve worked on it (the breakdown) for the last three weeks, so let’s hope we can be a bit better in three weeks’ time and look for a really big finish to the season.”