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Report | Difficult loss offers rays of hope with crisp attacking interplay

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In Italy they have a saying: ‘piove sul bagnato’, which loosely translates to ‘it rains on the wet’.

Although there has been plenty to find encouraging so far in the early stages of the 2023/24 season, three losses from three Allianz Cup fixtures has meant it’s been a bruising start to life in the top flight for Leicester Tigers.

So, of course, this difficult start has lead to today’s game, the most daunting of them all: the back-to-back Allianz Cup champions, last year’s Premiership finalists and one of the most established teams in the world, Exeter Chiefs.   

However, despite a difficult score, the rain actually held off today and, on occasion amongst a cloudy sky, supporters can feel optimistic that there were times the sun shone on a performance offering rays of hope for the Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby opener in two weeks time.

Tigers started the match very brightly from Natasha Jones’ kick off, with the team flying up and forcing the visitors to cede possession early by kicking long. 

There’s a couple of nice moves, all going through captain Jones who’s sending runners in early. 

But an early turnover in Tigers half means the side are severely on the backfoot in the opening 10 minutes.

The two early scores show Chiefs’ skills, first flanker Ebony Jefferies driving over from short range before, moments later, slick hands puts winger Eilidh Sinclair over on the right touchline.

What will give the coaches, and hundreds of fans at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, encouragement is the way the team held themselves and fought back from their opponents initial flurry.  

Immediately following the second try, Chiefs look like they’re on for another as  they find a gap in midfield and shoot through but scrum-half Amy Relf absolutely bodies the runner with a huge tackle and moments later Tigers turn the ball over.

Here the home crowd at Tigers HQ can see the full flowing attacking rugby that’s been promised. There’s offloads aplenty here and the crowd roar in response, to each metre over the gainline.

Both captain Jones and Relf are helping to dictate the flow of the game, Relf both speeding up and slowing down the play when necessary, while Tash is sending in hard runners like Kat Turner and Amy Orrow straight into the thick of it, before adeptly switching it up and playing right out the back to spread it wide when necessary.

The next 20 minutes see the side go close on four separate occasions as they dominate possession and play the game entirely in Chiefs half. 

Firstly, a tap penalty ten metres out sees the side opt for drives from close range, with the likes of Orrow, Ofure Ugiagbe and Jade Jones driving hard before Orrow gets us over the line, Chiefs doing admirably to get underneath and hold the ball up.

A few moments later, the team are going close again, crisp offloads allowing the team to gradually make metres until, cruelly, Chiefs win a turnover right on their own line and clear long to touch. 

Although a wayward kick hands possession back to the visitors, there’s a great double shot in midfield by centres Rebecca De Filippo and Katie Childs and the ball is knocked on moments later.

The from the scrum De Filippo is involved again, finding half a yard of space in midfield and it’s on, surely; the ball is played wide to find Caz Collie in space who steps her opposite number, shoots through the gap before, mere millimetres from the line she’s hauled down, her offload crushingly knocked on.

But, not to be denied again, a galvanised side roll the dice once more and this time they come back with the points.

A penalty won on halfway is kicked to touch around 10 metres out. The ball’s claimed skyward by Morgan Richardson and Tigers run a manoeuvre straight from the training ground. 

Quick ball puts Tash in the pocket and she dummies the pass to De Filippo, instead hitting Collie round the back who then executes a three v two beautifully, delaying the pass before releasing Childs who puts Amelia Tutt into the corner for the side’s first try of the season at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

The fact there’s an immediate double riposte by Exeter does little to dampen the spirits here at Tigers HQ and when Tash Jones kicks a beauty into touch five metres out everyone in the stadium feels there’s another score coming. 

Devastatingly, despite the dart of a throw by Alana Bainbridge, the ball’s collected well but lost forward and a breathless first half comes to an end.

 

First half score: Leicester Tigers 07 – 22 Exeter Chiefs.

 

Despite a buoyed atmosphere in the first 40, the second half of the match brings far more difficulties. 

There’s a tough start to the half as scrum-half Brooke Bradley scores two tries in quick succession, both from quick tap penalties that see her dart through gaps as the defence were trying to reorganise. 

The away side have quickly emptied the bench, bringing on heavy hitters like Harriet Millar-Mills, a 60 cap England international and, from there, they have begun to turn the screw. 

Tigers had a few bright spots in the fifteen minutes they held out but there was little chance to attack. Katie Thicker, who came on for her Tigers debut with 10 minutes left of the first half, has been exceptional defensively on the wing, making all of her tackles with aplomb, including shifting her opposite number into touch. 

Childs, equally, has been a force so far in attack and defence and she couples another great line with a brilliant drive through the contact, allowing for well-earned five metres. 

However, with the game entering the final twenty minutes, Chiefs experience and quality shines through and they run in four tries to finish it off.

Katie Buchananen steps inside to find space and then rockets through a gap to score, then substitute Powdrell scores twice in perfect symmetry, the New Zealender first scoring a driving try from close range to the right of the post, before she gets her second just to the left.

Finally, hooker Abby Middlebrook completes the win with another driving try but, of course, the game was long finished at this point. 

The score line will be a difficult one to swallow for the side and it ends a difficult Allianz Cup campaign beset with tough losses. It may always rain on the wet but the rays of sunshine displayed in the first half can have supporters dreaming that, when Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby begins in two weeks time, at Mattioli Woods Welford Road, brighter skies may lay ahead.

 

Final score: Leicester Tigers 07 – 61 Exeter Chiefs

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

LEI 7-22 ECW

FT ScoreFull Time Score

LEI 7-61 ECW

Attendance

634

Referee

Not available

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
7

Full Time

Exeter Chiefs Women
Exeter Chiefs Women
61
Leicester Tigers
KOHTFT
Exeter Chiefs Women

Commentary

FULL TIME IN LEICESTER

A rampant second half from Exeter sees them take home the competition points with a 54-point victory, 7-61, at Mattioli Woods Welford Road. 

60

EXETER EXTEND THE LEAD

The Chiefs take their lead out to 34 points, 7-41, with a try on the hour mark to Katie Buchanan. 

BACK UNDERWAY IN LEICESTER

This Allianz Cup clash gets going again for the second half at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

CHIEFS LEAD AT THE BREAK

The visitors, with four tries, take a 15-point lead into the break at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

30

HALF AN HOUR DOWN IN LEICESTER

A try to Amelia Tutt, on the end of some entertaining attack by Tigers, before Exeter score a third of their own makes it a 10-point game in Leicester. 

15

FAST START FROM THE CHIEFS

Exeter Chiefs lead by twelve, with tries to Ebony Jefferies and Eilidh Sinclair, after 15 minutes at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

KICK OFF IN LEICESTER

We are underway at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in Round 5 of the Allianz Cup! 


Team news | Tigers side to return home for first time this season

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Kick-off: 2pm | Gates open from: 1pm

Vicky Macqueen has named the matchday squad for Saturday's Allianz Cup home game against Exeter Chiefs.

Natasha Jones returns to captain the side, with Roisin McBrien named as vice-captain.

Jones, McBrien and back-row partner Morgan Richardson, are all set to make their 20th competitive appearance for Leicester Tigers this weekend. 

In the front-row, Ofure Ugiagbe returns at tighthead prop, partnering up with Jade Jones, at loosehead, for the first time since the Championship play-off final, while Kat Turner also returns to the side, joining Amy Orrow in the second row.

Vice-captain McBrien sees herself in a more familiar back-row, reunited with Morgan Richardson, blindside flanker, and Becky Noon, No.8, with the trio making their third start together in the Allianz Cup.

In the backs, Amy Relf continues at scrum-half, reunited with a returning Natasha Jones, the captain slotting in at fly-half.

The centre partnership is retained, while, in the back-three, last week's debutant Amelia Tutt moves to the left wing, Caz Collie shifts to the right having started the first three games at 15 while Amanda Swartz, who's played at No. 10 and 13 thus far in the campaign, starts at full-back.

On the bench, versatile back Katie Thicker is in line for her Leicester Tigers debut, the side's 13th debutant thus far this season. 

STARTING XV
15 Amanda Swartz [2] 
14 Caz Collie [3]
13 Katie Childs [20]
12 Rebecca DeFilippo [2]
11 Amelia Tutt [1]
10 Natasha Jones [20] 
9 Amy Relf [18]
1 Jade Jones [13]
2 Alana Bainbridge [3]
3 Ofure Ugiagbe [21]
4 Kat Turner [18]
5 Amy Orrow [3]
6 Morgan Richardson [19]
7 Roisin McBrien (c) [19]
8 Becky Noon [18]

REPLACEMENTS
16 Tanya Bird [14]
17 Churchy Knight [21]
18 Georgie Grimes [3]
19 Zoe Warrington [15]
20 Sydney Mead [2]
21 Polly Roberts [1]
22 Katie Thicker *
23 Zoë Evans [17]

*Denotes Leicester Tigers debut

Form Guide
Form
WLWLL
Last Match
Lost to Saracens Women 19-54
Past Meeting
Lost 7-61
Form
Last Match
Past Meeting
Form
W----
Last Match
Beat Leicester Tigers 61-7
Past Meeting
Won 61-7

Matchday Live

Leicester Tigers7
Leicester Tigers
Exeter Chiefs Women61
Exeter Chiefs Women
Full Time