Women in Black: Exeter Chiefs Go on Extraordinary Run
Online Sport Editor, Elise Hamersley, takes a look at Exeter Chiefs Women’s latest winning streak
After a mixed start to their debut season, Exeter Chiefs Women are on a five game winning streak following their latest victory over Worcester Warriors in round 12 of the Allianz Premier 15s.
Starting their stunning set of results with a 38-0 win over Sale Sharks in December, the Chiefs were well set to return in the new year with their triumph over Bristol Bears (31-27). They put on a passionate performance against the club a number of their players departed from last season. This battle saw a red card for Spanish scrum half Patricia García Rodriguez for a tip tackle. She later received a five week ban following the incident, giving 19-year-old Flo Robinson several opportunities to start in the number 9 shirt.
Despite the two week break that followed due to increasing rates of COVID-19 transmission in the UK, Chiefs managed to keep momentum and confidence, seeing out a historic win against Saracens in their first game back (22-14). Wet and windy conditions at Sandy Park didn’t stop Chiefs from controlling this match against the most successful side in Premier 15s history, ultimately ending Sarries’ 33 game winning run.
Saracens had not lost a game since October 2018 and were clearly rattled by the Chiefs’ dominance in the first half. The women in black delivered a whole team performance with an incredible defensive effort and quick line speed that allowed American open side flanker and player of the match, Kate Zackary to pounce on a ricocheted ball over the try line, blocking Holly Aitchison’s exit kick with her hand. While Sarries came back in the final minutes of the game to secure an additional try and conversion, it was all too late.
This victory only seemed to power the Chiefs further in their showdown the following weekend against one of the other most dominant English sides in women’s rugby: Harlequins. A tight, scrappy game in tough conditions gave much to work on for Susie Appleby’s side but a resilient performance led them to a 6-7 win and served as a warning shot to the league as they established themselves as serious contenders.
Round 12 saw them come up against Worcester Warriors for the second time. The last time these teams met Chiefs came away with their first ever win and this round proved no different with a convincing 10-17 victory for the Devon-based newcomers.
After these five convincing wins, Chiefs have their sights firmly set on a place in the top four and a chance to play in the end of season play-offs. They are currently positioned fifth in the table and still face other challenges like Wasps Women in three weeks’ time, who have also offered worthy competition to the big players in Premier 15s.
Exeter Chiefs Women have really started to develop their own style through these victories, such as strong double tackles and the signature Chiefs pick-and-go, making them a significant threat. Despite such a short amount of time together, they have managed to form a cohesive structure and discipline, resulting in a 57.5 percent possession average so far this season.
This rapid and continuous improvement can only suggest more exciting competition in the future of the league. Time will tell if Chiefs can continue to build these individual performances into consistent, long term results.