Worcester Women 12 Chiefs Women 29
Worcester Warriors Women 12
Exeter Chiefs Women 29
Harry Scott-Munro at Sixways
Exeter Chiefs kept up their play-off push in this season’s Allianz Premier 15s, as they put in a swashbuckling performance at Sixways to secure a 29-12 bonus-point victory over Worcester Warriors.
After a slow start, tries from Linde van der Velden, Nancy McGillivray, Chloe Rollie and DaLeaka Menin, along with nine points from the boot of Patricia Garcia, secured the victory for the Chiefs, with Worcester’s two tries coming from Caity Mattinson and Abby Smitheman.
In freezing conditions, kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes as a result of the previous match overrunning. It was, however Worcester who came racing out of the blocks, Paige Farries challenging the Exeter defence after fly-half Minori Yamamoto had kicked her side into an attacking position, only for her side to cough up possession.
The Warriors continued to pressure the Exeter line though, as Susie Appleby’s side struggled to get out of their own 22.
Last weekend’s victory over Loughborough Lightning was a performance built upon dogged defence and that industry around the breakdown and that effort was on show again here as first, Maisy Allen popped up with a crucial turnover for her side, before the Chiefs then sent the Warriors marching back towards halfway.
Exeter’s first try duly followed, from their first period of possession in the Worcester half. After a stunning break from Rollie took play inside Warrior’s territory, the ball was kept tight as Exeter built the phases in the 22, before Van der Velden bulldozed her way over from 15 metres with a huge carry, Garcia converting from in front of the posts.
Worcester though, were quickly back on the attack, as they looked to respond. With Exeter perhaps guilty of wanting to play a little too much in their own half, centre Meg Varley cottoned onto a loose pass in midfield, allowing Mattinson and Cat McNaney to combine down the blindside. Mattinson then spotted space herself and burst through to register her side’s first try of the evening.
That setback didn’t deter the Chiefs as they continued to probe when they got into the Worcester half. Their territorial advantage was built upon a monstrous performance from the pack, as they continued to win penalties at scrum time, both on their own put-in and Worcester’s.
With nearly half an hour on the clock, Rollie and Laura Sheehan linked up superbly to take play back inside the Worcester 22, before the pack kept it tight and edged towards the Worcester line. From there, McGillivray took the ball at pace and powered over for her first try in an Exeter Chiefs shirt, Garcia again adding the conversion.
Worcester were beginning to compound their penalties now, as Garcia’s boot kept marching them back up the field. After a third penalty at the breakdown in little over a minute, Garcia continued to keep the scoreboard ticking over, as she slotted a penalty from 35 metres.
With half-time approaching, the pack continued to send Worcester in reverse at the scrum, as Garcia put her side within sight of the Worcester line again.
For the first time in the afternoon though, Exeter were unable to convert the opportunity, as the Warriors came up with a huge turnover on their line to see out the half.
HALF-TIME SCORE: WORCESTER WARRIORS 5 EXETER CHIEFS 17
In the second-half, Garcia continued to probe the Warriors back field, with a number of pinpoint kicks, but Worcester had begun to look more threatening, as they finally managed to work the ball wide to Lydia Thompson.
On several occasions, the England wing managed to break free down the right, only to be hauled down by the ferocious visiting defence.
The Chiefs were in no mood to give Worcester any opportunity to get themselves back into the match and their third try of the evening duly followed. After another barnstorming bust from Van der Velden, the ball was worked wide to Jennine Detiveaux, who raced down the wing, feeding inside to Rollie to scamper over under the posts, much to the delight of her Chiefs team-mates.
Exeter’s back three were really in the groove now, with Sheehan stretching her legs and showing the Worcester font-line defence a clean pair of heels, only for Thompson to produce a last-ditch tap tackle to deny the Irish wing a run in out wide.
Thompson was continuing to find pockets of space in the Exeter defence, as she took her side back into the Exeter half but again, the defence held firm.
Garcia’s kicking was another real highlight on a day of positives for her side and again, it was her accuracy with the boot that left the Warriors at sixes and sevens, as the Chiefs went hunting a bonus-point try.
After Detiveaux had latched onto Garcia’s kick through, Worcester were penalised at the breakdown, allowing Exeter to put themselves five metres out from the line.
Bonus-points could prove crucial in the final shake-up, and the Chiefs did not waste their opportunity here, Menin crashing over from the back of the maul for her side’s fourth try.
With the victory more or less assured, Exeter looked to push for more, with Rollie and co-captain Kate Zackary both bursting into the Worcester 22, only for the Warriors defence to firmly shut the door in their faces.
Exeter though, were continuing to ask questions and nearly scored a fifth in the far corner, after Detiveaux carved through the Worcester midfield and spun the ball wide to Merryn Doidge, who looked for all money to be in, before a combination of Thompson and Jade Shekells denied her the score.
It would be the hosts who would have the final say on proceedings, as Sioned Harries crashed up to within two metres of the Exeter line. The Chiefs defence held firm though, as Worcester continued to hammer at the door, before replacement Smitheman eventually bundled the ball over the whitewash, Ellen Murphy converting the consolation score.
Make no mistake, Sixways is an incredibly challenging place to travel, and Appleby was delighted with the energy and application shown by her side, as they secured their fifth victory of the season to keep themselves in the play-off mix, ahead of next Saturday’s encounter with Gloucester-Hartpury at Sandy Park.
Warriors: C McNaney, L Thompson; C. Cox (E Murphy 64), M Varley (J Shekells 52); P Farries; M Yamamoto, C Mattinson; A Gondwe (C Tremelling 16), C Phillips (L Skeldon 40), F Long (A Smitherman 48); L O’Donnell, A Buckland-Hurry (A Washington 40); A Matthews, A Callender (T Bricknell 71), J Brown (S Harries 40)
Tries - Mattinson, Smitheman; Conversion - Murphy
Chiefs: C Rollie; J Detiveaux; K Zackary, N McGillivray; L Sheehan (M Doidge 57); F Robinson, P Garcia (B Bradley 68); S Kato (O de Merchant 57), E Tuttosi (C Nielson 57), D Menin (L Delgado 62); A Fleming (N Fryday 62), L Van der Velden; E Jefferies, P Leitch, M Allen (E Sinclair 68). Replacement (not used): G Mackinder
Tries - Van der Velden, McGillivray, Rollie, Menin; Conversions - Garcia (3); Penalty - Garcia
Referee: B Rayner