Source: David Howlett

Allianz Premier 15s – Fourth Final Preview

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Saracens v Exeter Chiefs

This is the fifth season of the Prem 15s and the fourth final. The 2019-20 season came to an unwelcome halt after Round 12 for reasons we may possibly have forgotten.

And for once it is not the pair of perennial finalists on show; Saracens are safely through, but Quins had to give way to Exeter Chiefs after succumbing to their London rivals away from home.

The Squads:


1 Hannah Botterman, 2 May Campbell, 3 Kelsey Clifford, 4 Fiona McIntosh, 5 Poppy Cleall, 6 Mackenzie Carson, 7 Vicky Fleetwood, 8 Marlie Packer (cc), 9 Ella Wyrwas, 10 Holly Aitchison, 11 Lotte Clapp (cc), 12 Alev Kelter, 13 Cara Wardle, 14 Alysha Corrigan, 15 Sarah McKenna


16 Kat Evans, 17 Donna Rose, 18 Alex Ellis, 19 Sonia Green, 20 Georgia Evans, 21 Anna Goddard, 22 Hannah Casey, 23 Tilly Vaughan-Fowler


15 Merryn Doidge, 14 Eilidh Sinclair, 13 Kanako Kobayashi, 12 Gabby Cantorna, 11 Jennine Detiveaux, 10 Patricia Garcia, 9 Flo Robinson, 1 Hope Rogers, 2 Emily Tuttosi, 3 DaLeaka Menin, 4 Nichola Fryday, 5 Linda van der Velden, 6 Poppy Leitch (c-c), 7 Rachel Johnson, 8 Kate Zackary (c-c),


16 Clara Nielson, 17 McKinley Hunt, 18 Michaella Roberts, 19 Gabrielle Senft, 20 Ebony Jefferies, 21 Brooke Bradley, 22 Megan Foster, 23 Nancy McGillivray

Who will win?



They not only have the t-shirts, they have players who are the equal of any in the world, specifically Marlie Packer (Player of the 2022 Six Nations) and Poppy Cleall (Player of the 2021 Six Nations). Add to them any number of internationals, plus one or two who really should be (May Campbell springs to mind), and you have the makings of a winning outfit. A side that can replace the injured Zoe Harrison at No 10 with Holly Aitchison is blessed indeed. They will be delighted to have Georgia Evans restored to the bench.

What makes them so difficult to oppose is their knack of turning games that look like losses. Again and again they have upset opponents who thought they had (at last) found the recipe for success against them.

The end of season figures take some working out. Sarries finished a full eleven league points ahead of Chiefs. Yet Chiefs scored more onfield points than them and conceded a quite remarkable 83 fewer, enough to give any defence coach an immediate pay-bonus.

Yet Chiefs have lost four times, Sarries only twice, and twice is already at the outer edge of Sarries’ losses (in previous years 1, 1, 0 and 2).

And this will be their fourth final, so nerves will be less shredded than for some.

What do Chiefs have to offer in reply?

First, that iron defence. They have conceded a miserly 15 points per match this season.

Second, a club spirit that has ensured that leading USA players have decided to stay on at the club rather than represent their nation in the imminent Pacific-Four tests in New Zealand. What their Eagles team-mates think of this has not been recorded publicly. (But then, the formidable Alev Kelter has made the same decision for the opposition.) Players from Canada, Japan, Netherlands, Spain and USA are drawn together simply being sharing the same experience, of being far from home.

In all probablility this will be Patricia Garcia’s swansong, so her team will do their utmost to make it memorable for her.


Throw into the mix the fact that the game will take place at Sixways, where the Eagles suffered a pulverising defeat 89-0.

In that game Sarries (in the shape of Hollie Aitchison at 13, plus Hannah Botterman and Zoe Harrison, bench) helped England to victory against Jennie Detiveaux, Hope Rogers, Megan Foster, Kate Zackary and Megan Foster. Carly Waters was Eagles’ No 9 that day, but has rarely been Saracens’ first choice since joining them Rachael Johnson and Gabby Cantorna weren’t on call that day, but nor were Packer and Cleall.

Results this season:

Saracens 32 Exeter 19
Exeter 54 Saracens 12

That Round 17 was one of the shocks of the season, indeed of the entire history of the league. That 50-point concession was as rare as 50-point losses for the Black Ferns. Hoho. But I suggested in my report that the team representing the leaders would look and play very differently on the big day. We shall see.

Coverage available on: BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and app from 14:45 BST.

Note: the final is not yet found worthy of coverage on a main BBC channel. Now if Allianz were the BBC’s main insurance provider…