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Key battles and how Gloucester-Hartpury won the Premier 15s convincingly

By Matt Merritt
Gloucester-Hartpury lift the Premier 15s trophy, June 2023.

A fresh set of names faced off in the Allianz Premier 15s final, nearly 10,000 fans in the stadium and a beautiful sunny day made for a brilliant atmosphere at Kings – sorry, Queensholm Stadium. Gloucester-Hartpury Women playing on familiar ground while west country rivals Exeter Chiefs Women had a fairly short commute up the M5. Ultimately, the locals would take the victory 34-19 in a hard-fought contest.

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First blood went to Gloucester-Hartpury, with Kelsey Jones finishing a powerful rolling maul. Exeter Chiefs continued to absorb wave after wave of Cherry and White attack, playing rope-a-dope and patiently waiting for an opportunity. When it came, Gloucester were ready, with Jones showing her quality in defence as well as attack.

With the minutes passing in the first half both teams saw attacks die due to handling errors. Gloucester-Hartpury also losing Sarah Beckett to a yellow card for a high tackle which finally gave Chiefs the opportunity they needed. Emily Tuttosi capitalised and put her team on the scoreboard before Liv McGoverne’s conversion bounced off the uprights at just the right angle and Exeter took the lead.

Despite being a player down, Gloucester continued to apply pressure and it paid off as they worked the ball wide for Rachel Lund to put them back in the ascendency. With only seconds remaining before half time, Sarah Beckett, fresh from her ten-minute rest, powered through with a third, Emma Sing adding the extras to send the home team into the dressing room seven points clear.

A penalty try for the home team and a yellow card for Claudia MacDonald, with a yellow card fro Gloucester following on, Lund being sent for a rest following a high tackle. Chiefs made the most of the extra space available, McGoverne muscling over to score.

Kate Zackary would find herself on the receiving end of the next yellow card and it looked like Gloucester would capitalise but Tatyana Heard was bundled into touch before limping off the field. With even minutes left on the clock substitute Lisa Neumann added to the cherry and white lead. Substitute Emily Jeffries added a late try for Chiefs, but by that point the result seemed inevitable.

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Key Battles

Front Row

Exeter Chiefs certainly looked the stronger pack on paper, given the pedigree of their front row options but if one name stood out it was Gloucester-Hartpury’s Kelsey Jones, whose all-action performance typified her team – scoring points, throwing herself into contact and never shying away from a tackle. Hope Rogers played hard for Chiefs and Emily Tuttosi was a threat, but Maud Muir and Laura Delgado combined brilliantly with Jones, both in the loose and also to provide dominance in the scrum.

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Number eight

Nobody will ever outwork Rachel Johnson, she’s a coaches dream with her never-say-die attitude. Sarah Beckett on the other hand, was lucky to see much of the game after a yellow card that could easily have been red. She made an impact on her return to the field though and Exeter continually struggled with her physicality.

Half backs

Chalk and cheese. Two teams with very different approaches to their half back deployment, with Gloucester making the most of Natasha Hunt’s broken field running and Lleucu George’s powerful boot while Exeter’s pairing largely played a more passive game, directing play more than injecting themselves into it, though when Liv McGoverne did take matters into her own hands, the results spoke for themselves.

Full back

Emma Sing goes from strength to strength, her kicking keeps getting better and she’s a wonderful runner too. She’ll be very pleased with her game today as she kept the opposition on their toes throughout. Merryn Doidge didn’t make headlines, but she barely put a foot wrong either, with a quiet but consistent performance, especially defensively.

 

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