Exeter Chiefs head coach Susie Appleby is keen for her side to back up last weekend’s first Allianz Premier 15s win against Worcester Warriors with another big performance against DMP Durham Sharks tomorrow (1pm).
Appleby’s side broke their top-flight duck with an impressive display against the Midlanders, bagging all four points courtesy of tries from Lottie Holland, Emily Tuttosi and Laura Delgado, two of which were converted by Gabby Cantorna.
Now, Appleby is craving ‘more of the same’ against the Sharks, who have endured a torrid start to the season, which included a 105-0 loss away to Wasps last weekend. Despite that result, the Chiefs coach insists her side won’t be any less motivated for their encounter.
“Of course, we’re really pleased with getting our first win on the board last week,” said Appleby. “I think I said already, we feel we could’ve performed a bit better in the second half, but I was really pleased to get the win.
“As for this week, it’s a hard one on the road. We’ll be six hours on the bus, it’s an overnight stay for the first time and how do we handle the situation? In terms of the opposition, it doesn’t matter where they are in the table, we treat every opposition with the respect they deserve.
‘’Darlington have been unfortunate with their results so far, but they’re a quality side and that’s how we’ll be treating them. Therefore, the expectation comes back onto ourselves and how we can handle that on the back of a win. As a group, we’re improving every week and now we have to go again.”
That determination to continually improve is highlighted by the fact that Appleby is not resting on her laurels, still wanting more from her side. Last weekend’s 19-7 win saw Appleby hand first starts to Spanish duo Patricia Garcia and Laura Delgado and she was delighted with their impact: ‘‘You win and you lose every week, Patricia and Bimba (Delgado) were back in and they were brilliant, they enjoyed themselves and it was their first outing with the team.’’
Appleby will also be pleased that her side are now starting to find their feet in the Allianz Premier 15s after a difficult opening set of matches.
‘‘I think we’re settling a bit in terms of the league. The girls are working really hard, looking at the opposition, looking at ourselves and that’s half the battle really, they are desperate to improve which I love.’’
Appleby and her coaching staff will also be pleased with the positive attitude in the squad at the moment, with many players now starting to realise the level they can potentially reach.
‘‘They’ve got that thirst for knowledge, the thirst to improve which you would expect from players at this level but it’s resounding in the whole squad now. There was a few of them at the beginning, now it’s a whole squad thing going ‘how can we be the best we can be?’ so that’s really pleasing as we know there’s a lot more to come.’’
Continuity has been the key for Appleby in her team selections thus far, slowly integrating new faces into the side and that trend continues this weekend, with a largely unchanged team.
Ahead of this weekend’s encounter at DMP Durham Sharks, Appleby confirmed a first appearance of the season for second-row Alex Powell, who joined the club in the summer from Wasps.
‘‘This weekend will see Alex Powell’s first game with us since she moved from Wasps which is massive, that’s going to be fun, which means Poppy (Leitch) will move on to six, into the backrow but she’s comfortable there, so every week presents a different opportunity and that’s what we’re all about.’’
Last week, Appleby challenged her side to no longer accept the tag of being a new team as the team continue to find their feet. Reflecting on performances so far, Appleby issued a challenge to her side to try and be more fluent in attack: ‘’We’re finding that we’re defending pretty well, we’re not attacking as well as we want to, so that’s a real work on for this week.’’
The early part of the season has also been a learning process for Appleby and assistant Amy Garnett, as they’ve tried to assemble a squad against the backdrop of a global pandemic, as well as finding a game plan that suits the side, something that is not lost on Appleby.
‘’There are things starting to take shape, some things we’ve left behind because it didn’t suit us and some things we’re taking forward and then we’ll layer on bits of how we’re playing.’’
Last weekend’s first league victory drew on the home comforts of Sandy Park. The challenge for Appleby’s side this weekend will be to back it up on the road, as they go in search of their first away victory. Regardless of the result, Appleby wants to see her side put in a complete performance:
‘’We’re taking every team as it comes, every game as it comes. We give respect to the opposition as they deserve. We’ll go and put on the best performance that we can give and then we’ll see what happens come Saturday night.’’
15. Merryn Doidge
14. Lottie Holland
13. Gabby Cantorna
12. Lauren Cattell
11. Garnet Mackinder
10. Taylor Black
9. Patricia Garcia-Rodriquez
1. Michaella Roberts
2. Emily Tuttosi
3. Laura Delgado
4. Alex Powell
5. McKinley Hunt
6. Poppy Leitch
7. Kate Zackary
8. Linde Van der Velden (capt)
16. Charlie Budge
17. Lauren Leatherland
18. Kayleigh Armstrong
19. Abbie Fleming
20. Ebony Jefferies
21. Ffion Lewis
22. Flo Robinson
23. Niamh Terry