Source: Nick Heath

The Newbies put in their Place

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Allianz Premier 15s Final – Saracens v Exeter Chiefs Sixways, Worcester

This was a very different Sarries side from the one that let in 50 points at Sandy Park recently.

For one thing, they had Marlie Packer and Poppy Cleall firing on all cylinders, and few sides in the world know how to deal with them. But Sarries had other players on top form too, like Alev Kelter, Hannah Botterman, Hollie Aitchison, May Campbell and Sarah McKenna. Chiefs unwisely kicked off into Aitchison’s arms and she returned a kick that put her side on the offensive straightaway.

Chiefs responded with a long raid, but it was snuffed out by a great tackle by McKenna and a ‘holding on’ verdict from Harry Walbaum. At the other end of the ground, Sarries won a penalty, Aitchison chipped, Kelter drove but was held. A few tight phases later it was almost inevitably, Packer who twisted her way over. (7-0)

Aitchison thought her interception was leading to a simple try, but a Vicky Fleetwood tackle was deemed high. No matter, on 22 minutes Fleetwood completed another thundering set of drives and off-loads. (0-14). Their support work was exemplary. It was very rare for a player to get isolated and concede possession. Defending against them must be one of life’s more exhausting chores.

Then came a moment for all Spain to relish. As Chiefs threatened, Walbaum offered them a penalty. The quickest of taps-and-go saw Garcia leap ahead, wriggle past an arm and over under the posts. (14-7)

That was what the game needed. Exeter weren’t going to sit back and watch the Londoners steamroller them. But did anyone spot the tap before the go?

The next instant Sarries were back on attack. To show they were taking life seriously, Kelter was called up to add three points. (17-7)

And still Packer wasn’t done. She added a second try on the end of some quite brilliant support work by backs and forwards. Off-loads off the ground were their party piece.

Perhaps Chiefs were too predictable in their approach work, Certainly, Garcia couldn’t match Aitchison’s command of so many facets of No 10 play. Her kicking, passing and feints were of the highest order.

Whatever Susie Appleby suggested during the break fell on deaf ears. Aitchison’s kick-off put the ball in Sarries’ hands again, Cleall was almost through and Mackenzie Carson was! (31-7)

Hope Rogers engineered a wonderful rip and charge, but the defence stood firm. Next Chiefs were held up again on the line, but eventually a fine move saw Jennine Detiveaux chalk up her 14th try of the season. (31-14)

Sarries responded with some of their finest interpassing of the whole game, involving the impressive Ella Wyrwas, Fi McIntosh and others. The referee awarded the try, though at least four camera angles couldn’t prove the ball was grounded. The try stood. (38-14)

On 63 minutes Patricia Garcia left the field for the last time. She was applauded all the way, wrapped in a Spanish flag and embraced by all her team-mates on the bench. She was close to tears, but managed a huge smile for the cameras. So ended one of the most glorious of careers, fourteen seasons long.

Sarries turned the knife once more as brilliant interpassing and off-loading let Alysha Corrigan show her finishing skills once again.

Result: Saracens 43 Exeter Chiefs 21
Player of the Match: Marlie Packer
Attendance: 3,288



1 Hannah Botterman, 2 May Campbell, 3 Kelsey Clifford, 4 Fiona McIntosh, 5 Poppy Cleall, 6 Mackenzie Carson, 7 Vicky Fleetwood, 8 Marlie Packer (co-captain), 9 Ella Wyrwas, 10 Holly Aitchison, 11 Lotte Clapp (c-c), 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

Saracens v Exeter Chiefs
Referee: Harry Walbaum
ARs: Nikki O’Donnell and Simon Adams
TMO: Dean Richards


For the first time a Prem 15s final presented some unpredictable extremes: two teams whose histories could not be more different, and two captains both qualified for the United States.

It was important for the league that at least one new face presented itself at the final. Chiefs can be proud of their achievements, but it’s hard to see anyone displacing Sarries with their present line-up. Perhaps the offer of a few £ million contracts might alter the balance of power.

And so the season comes to an end. Oh no, it doesn’t! Next Monday 6 June the Pacific-4 starts: Canada v USA, Australia v NZ and viewable worldwide