Exeter pounce at the death to beat Harlequins and seal double over defending Premier 15s champions

·3 min read
Patricia Garcia wins it for Exeter with the last kick of the match - GETTY IMAGES
Patricia Garcia wins it for Exeter with the last kick of the match - GETTY IMAGES

Exeter Chiefs 18-17 Harlequins

The Premier 15s is increasingly a league of fine margins and it is hard to imagine any finer than these. In the cut and thrust of a battle for playoff places warming by the week, Patricia Garcia had the last word with the final kick as Exeter sealed the double over the defending champions.

It was the sort of arm-wrestle that might have been anticipated between the two best defences in the league. Both Exeter and Harlequins were strangely error prone in a battle of muscle and might.

Harlequins had the better of the first half, painting mirror images behind the mass of their maul to score twice – Chloe Edwards and then Jade Konkel finding space adjacent to the drive for tries. They fell either side of a Zintle Mpupha try for the hosts, the centre hitting a hard line off to cross the whitewash.

It looked for great swathes of the game that Exeter, with plenty of possession, may rue their handling and breakdown inaccuracy as Harlequins slid the deadbolt across. When the visitors were penalised after an extended meander of limited joy from Exeter midway through the second half, Garcia was content to restart the scoring.

Harlequins immediately responded. Two Exeter infringements allowed a third return to the fertile soil of the corner and the lineout drive again ploughed a path to the line, with Hannah Duffy the beneficiary.

Jennine Detiveaux of Exeter Chiefs is tackled by Sarah Beckett of Harlequins during the Women's Allianz Premier 15s match between Exeter Chiefs Women and Harlequins Women at Sandy Park on January 16, 2022 in Exeter, England - GETTY IMAGES
Jennine Detiveaux of Exeter Chiefs is tackled by Sarah Beckett of Harlequins during the Women's Allianz Premier 15s match between Exeter Chiefs Women and Harlequins Women at Sandy Park on January 16, 2022 in Exeter, England - GETTY IMAGES

Exeter’s hopes appeared to be fading with the January light but a glimmer soon appeared. After a burst down the right, Exeter battered on the door and Hope Rogers, one of two newly arrived North American imports to further augment this cosmopolitan side, squeezed over.

That was only to be the start of the drama at the death. Garcia was not pleased when the referee allowed Harlequins to continue to advance as she began her kicking motion; a hurried conversion struck the left upright to leave the home side two points behind.

And then, moments later and at the last, a penalty to Exeter - a stray Harlequin had failed to vacate the breakdown. Garcia settled herself and the game as the final kick went over - Susie Appleby’s side unlikely victors even below their best.

“You have to not think about the victory or loss,” said the nerveless Garcia, who began the game at inside centre and finished it at scrum-half. “We work really hard and we can beat any team in the league.”

Match details

Scoring sequence: 0-5 Edwards try. 5-5 Mpupha try, 7-5 Garcia conversion, 7-10 Konkel try, 7-12 Tuima conversion, 10-12 Garcia penalty, 10-17 Duffy try, 15-17 Rogers try, 18-17 Garcia penalty.

Exeter: M Doidge; J Detiveaux, Z Mpupha, P Garcia, L Sheehan (C Rollie 51); M Foster (McGillivary 51), F Robinson; L Delgado (M Hunt 57), E Tuttosi (C Nielson 53)), Daleaka Menin (H Rogers 53); A Fleming, L van der Velden (N Fryday 67); P Leitch (E Jeffries 67), R Johnson, K Zackary. Unused substitutes: B Bradley

Harlequins: E Kildunne; H Cowell, L Tuima, R Burford (I Mayhew 70), J Breach (F Aucken 75); E Scott, L Packer (E Swords 56); V Cornborough (T Viksten 70), A Cokayne, C Edwards (H Duffy 59); R Galligan, F Fletcher; J Konkel, B Dainton (L Brooks 51), S Beckett. Unsused substitutes: E Bloor, P Roberts.

Referee: Harry Walbaum

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