Warriors Women 10 Chiefs Women 17
Worcester Warriors Women 10
Exeter Chiefs Women 17
Harry Scott-Munro at Sixways
Exeter Chiefs continued their fine form in the Allianz Premier 15s, as they made it five wins in a row, securing their first league double of the season against Worcester Warriors at Sixways.
Tries from Kate Zackary, Niamh Terry and Garnet Mackinder secured victory for the Chiefs, whose remaining points came courtesy of a solitary conversion from Gabby Cantorna.
Ahead of kick-off, head coach Susie Appleby was forced to change her winning formula from the previous week against Harlequins. With Lauren Cattell sidelined with concussion, it meant a reshuffle in the backs with Lottie Holland moving into the centre; Merryn Doidge shifting to wing Terry coming in for her first start at full-back.
The Warriors, meanwhile, made only one change from last time out against Wasps, scrum-half Caity Mattinson replacing Brooke Bradley, whilst there was also a 50th appearance for winger Vicky Laflin.
In freezing conditions and with snow starting to fall more heavily as the afternoon went on, the Chiefs looked slightly frozen in the early exchanges, as Worcester raced out of the traps and applied the early pressure.
Winger Laflin looked threatening with ball in hand and it took a timely turnover from Olivia DeMerchant to relieve the pressure for her side. Moments later, fly-half Taylor Black found space in behind the Worcester defence, with huge pressure from LHolland securing a turnover for her side. Chiefs looked to play with some width, spinning it wide to hooker Emily Tuttosi, who burst through several attempted tackles, tip-toeing down the line and just keeping herself infield. Chiefs continued to work around the fringes but were eventually held up.
Worcester’s last-ditch defence only delayed the inevitable though as, from the resulting scrum, captain Linde van der Velden carried hard into contact, allowing Zackary eventually dotting down from close range for her sixth try of the season.
Warriors responded though, Abi Kershaw finding a gap in the Chiefs defence and rushing forward towards the 22. Ill-discipline has crept into the Chiefs game at times this season and the same happened here, as they conceded two quick penalties to leave themselves hemmed in their own 22. They were let off, however, by the attempted touch finder from Sarah Nicholas going dead, as the snow began to get heavier.
As Chiefs looked to regain their composure and momentum, Tuttosi popped up with a superb tap-back from Flo Robinson’s box-kick to retain possession, before a series of penalties from the Warriors allowed Cantorna to kick her side to within sight of the try-line.
A lack of accuracy would come back to haunt the Chiefs as they made several handling errors as Worcester fronted up to the usually dominant Chiefs pick and drive game. Their lack of discipline allowed the Chiefs to keep the pressure on though and it eventually told minutes later.
Playing with a penalty advantage, Black threw caution to the wind and sent the ball cross-field. Terry gathered well and rode the tackle of Kershaw to cross for her first try in Chiefs colours, Cantorna converting to open up a 12-0 lead.
Worcester responded quickly though, as they struck back through centre Jade Shekells almost straight from the restart. With Warriors again looking dangerous with ball in hand, the ball was worked wide to Shekells, who showed a supreme turn of speed to race in unopposed in the corner.
There was to be one last tantalising view of the try-line for the Chiefs, after Tuttosi and Mackinder put in a hard chase on Kershaw, forcing her into touch in her own 22. The line-out was overthrown though and it was the Warriors who were left breathing a sigh of relief.
HALF-TIME: WORCESTER WARRIORS 5 EXETER CHIEFS 12
The temperature continued to fall after the break, although the hosts looked red hot as they got back into the action. After breaking into the Chiefs 22, they continued to plug away, only for the Chiefs defence to secure a timely turnover.
It was the introduction of American back-row Rachel Johnson, that seemed to click the Chiefs back into gear. First, her American team-mates Zackary and Cantorna worked in tandem to take play up to halfway, before Johnson steamed through a series of Worcester tackles and bludgeoned her way 30 metres upfield into the Warriors 22.
A series of penalties against the Warriors eventually told, with try-scorer Shekells seeing yellow for not rolling away. Chiefs lack of composure let them down though, with the Warriors able to turn defence into attack seconds later.
The dangerous Laflin found space in the Chiefs defence line for the second time in the afternoon, burst through the attempted tackles, Doidge doing well to stop her in her tracks.
It was to be Worcester who would score next though. Playing the Chiefs at their own game, they worked their way into the 22 and set about a series of tight caries from the forwards. The pressure eventually told as captain Carys Phillips bundled over, Nicholas crucially missing the conversion that would’ve drawn her side level.
Worcester continued to hound Chiefs in defence as Appleby’s side struggled to break out from their half.
Once they did though, they took their chance to devastating effect. Another strong burst from Johnson set the Chiefs up on the Warriors line and, with the hosts incredibly narrow in defence, Black floated the ball over to Mackinder for the winger to dot down.
The topsy-turvy nature of the match saw Worcester again come back into the fray, winger Paige Farries threatening down the right-hand side, only to spill the ball under pressure from Terry.
In the end, it was left to the pack to wind down the clock and allow scrum-half Robinson to boot the ball into touch to secure an important win for her side that means they keep pace with the top four ahead of them.
Warriors: A Kershaw (C Cox 46); P Farries, J Shekells, M Varley (H Fisher 51,) V Laflin; S Nicholas, C Mattinson; C Thomas, C Phillips, F Long; C Brincat (J Brown 61); A Buckland Hurry; A Matthews A Callender, S Harries (T Bricknell 46) Replacements (not used): A Smitheman, C Tremelling, C Wright-Haley, B Bradley
Tries: Shekells, Phillips
Yellow Card: Shekells
Chiefs: N Terry; M Doidge (L Sheehan 66) L Holland, G Cantorna, G Mackinder, T Black, F Robinson; O De Merchant (A Fleming 51) E Tuttosi (J Kitlinski 68) S Kato (K Armstrong 66); P Leitch, M Hunt; E Jefferies (R Johnson 41) K Zackary, L van der Velden (capt). Replacements (not used): D French, M Davies, L Burgess
Tries: Zackary, Terry, Mackinder; Conversion: Cantorna
Referee: H Walbaum