Sharks 7 Chiefs 43
Sale Sharks Women 7
Exeter Chiefs Women 43
Harry Scott-Munro at Heywood Road
It was the perfect start to the New Year for Exeter Chiefs Women, as they swept away the January blues and hosts Sale Sharks, to secure an emphatic 43-7 victory that propelled hem into second place in the Allianz Premier 15s table.
In a dominant display in the North West, the Chiefs scored seven tries in all, with Jennine Detiveaux, Kate Zackary, Laura Delgado, Linde van der Velden, Emily Tuttosi, Merryn Doidge and Brooke Bradley all crossing the whitewash, while Patricia Garcia added four conversions.
After a comprehensive victory over DMP Durham Sharks last time out, Susie Appleby’s side were bolstered by the return from injury of Rachel Johnson and Zintle Mphupa, adding further depth to an already threatening looking squad.
Whilst the weather had been torrential in the run-up to the game, the rain gods must have been looking kindly on both teams, as the clouds parted prior to kick-off.
Sale may be sitting in ninth place in the table, but they have provided a stern test for visitors to Heywood Road this season, with the Chiefs knowing they were in for a tough test from the off.
In the opening exchanges, both sides looked to use the boot, as they tested out the conditions and the dampness underfoot.
The Sharks had selected USA international Katana Howard at fly-half for this one, and she pulled the strings nicely in the opening minutes, as Sale had the better of the early exchanges.
The hosts thought they had created an attacking opportunity for themselves as well, as a dink through from Howard was collected by Laura Perrin in the Chiefs 22, only for the centre to lose the ball in contact.
After a slow start, that wake-up call spurred the Chiefs into life with Mphupa showing her power and offloading game in the middle of the park.
Whilst that opening opportunity didn’t come to anything, it wasn’t long until the Chiefs were in for their first of the afternoon, American speedster Detiveaux showing her ability one-on-one to hand off Lisa Neumann and race over for the opening score, converted by the boot of Garcia.
The Sharks though, stuck to their task and were straight back on the attack after their rivals fumbled the restart, Sale were able to keep the pressure on the Chiefs throughout, and were dominating proceedings at scrum-time, drawing penalties from a series of powerful drives.
That lack of go-forward at scrum time was allowing Sale to keep themselves poised in the Chiefs 22 and they eventually scored their first, despite the best initial efforts of the Chiefs defence to hold the ball up over the line. Off the back of a Sale scrum, the ball was fed to Vicky A Irwin, who crashed over from close range, with the conversion levelling the match.
As in the opening passages, the work of the Sharks in the Chiefs 22 seemed to re-awaken the Exeter bite in attack, as two quickfire penalties allowed Garcia to put her side within sight of the line.
The Chiefs have been dominant around the fringes so far this season and it was no surprise that it was from there that the second score came, co-captain Zackary powering over from close range to regain the lead, Garcia again adding the extras.
HALF-TIME: SALE SHARKS 7 EXETER CHIEFS 14
At half-time, Appleby challenged her side to be more clinical and sensible with the ball in possession and that message certainly seemed to do the trick, as fly-half Meg Foster put in a clever kick to force the Sharks back into their 22.
Whilst the scrum wasn’t fully functioning, Exeter’s driving game was now really coming to the fore, with Delgado driving over for her side’s third of the afternoon off the back of a rolling maul, as Sale struggled to live with the power of the Chiefs driving game.
It wouldn’t take long until the fourth score arrived, after superb break down work from van der Velden had secured the penalty for her side.
After Garcia put the Chiefs within sight of the line, the forwards went to work again, wearing down a weary Sharks defence, to allow van der Velden to power over.
Van der Velden was beginning to come to life, with the Dutch international showing her power and size to charge through the Sale defence, keeping her side on the front foot.
With the Chiefs hammering at the Sharks try line, Molly Morrissey saw yellow for killing the ball as Flo Robinson looked to keep the ball alive.
That act from the Sale second-row only delayed the Chiefs charge by a matter of minutes though, as Tuttosi powered over for her third try in two games from another close quarters forwards charge.
With fresh legs on the field, the Chiefs were continuing to turn the screw, with Eilidh Sinclair showing some solid game awareness to create space down the short side for her side.
The Chiefs were continuing to ask questions and get their hands on the ball, with Robinson and Laura Sheehan combining to take play deep inside the Sale half.
The sun was shining now, and it seemed to allow the Chiefs to showcase themselves at their running best inside the final ten minutes.
First, a sweeping passing move saw Sinclair feed Doidge, who cut back inside and burst over from twenty metres to keep the scoring spree going, before replacement Bradley added the close in the final act of the game.
With the Sharks still stuck in their half, Nancy McGillivray stole the ball in contact, allowing Lizzie Hanlon to punch a hole in the defensive line.
From that carry, with Sale struggling to realign, co-captain Kate Zackary found a pocket of space and fed the ball wide to Bradley to race in out wide.
For the Chiefs, this was the perfect start to 2022, and the perfect preparation from a physical encounter, ahead of what should be a titanic tussle with reigning champions Harlequins next week at Sandy Park.
Sharks: V.A Irwin; L. Delany; H. Bawden, L. Perrin; L. Neumann; K. Howard (L. Duffy 64), M. Grieve (J. Roberts 58); C. Benson (G. Pyrs 65), M. Kelly (E. Martin 61), N. James (A. Abu-Marzouq 65); B. Stafford, M. Morrissey (N. Howat 72); D. Hibbert-Jones (L. Winter 65), G. Perris-Redding, V. E Irwin. Replacement (not used): R. Woosey
Try: V. A Irwin; Conversion: V. A Irwin
Yellow Card: Morrissey
Chiefs: M. Doidge; J. Detiveaux (O. Jones 65); Z. Mphupa, P. Garcia (N. McGillivray 72); L. Sheehan (B. Bradley 72); M. Foster, F. Robinson; L. Delgado (M. Roberts 69), E. Tuttosi (C. Nielson 62), D. Menin (L. Hanlon 69), A. Fleming (N. Fryday 55), L. Van der Velden, P. Leitch, R. Johnson (E. Sinclair 62), K. Zackary
Tries: Detiveaux, Zackary, Delgado, Van der Velden, Tuttosi, Doidge, Bradley; Conversions: Garcia (4)
Referee: H. Walbaum