Women's 1st XV (BUCS 1)
Wed 03 Apr 2024
Exeter University RFC
Women's 1st XV (BUCS 1)
Tries: S Langford, N Orchard (3), K Smith (2)Conversions: L Dadds (2)Yellow Carded: H Bond
Loughborough University Women
Tries: K Waudby (2), A Williams, L Campion (2)Conversions: L Green (5)Penalties: L Green
Match Report Semi-Final: Exeter University 34-38 Loughborough University

Match Report Semi-Final: Exeter University 34-38 Loughborough University

EURFC Media4 Apr - 12:14
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Heartbreak for Exeter, who miss out on a chance at back-to-back finals in a tight loss to the African Violet of Loughborough

After an incredible regular season, these two old foes of the University game were one apiece against each other. Exeter had finished just one place above in the league rankings. Tensions were high for a spot in the final, and it produced an outstanding game and a brilliant advertisement for Women’s Rugby.

It was the dream start for Exeter. Loughborough had a lineout just inside their half and launched a strike play, but Langford made an excellent defensive read, like a thief in the night picked off a loose pass for the interception and ran it in under the posts, which Dadds converted for an opening seven-point lead.

Unfortunately for the hosts, a knock-on at the restart allowed Loughborough prime attacking position with a scrum on the 22’. The eight picked from the base, and it went through the hands of the halfback pair delivered onto the 13 on a hard line, who managed to battle her way just short of the line. One more pick-and-go from point-blank range would do it and Loughborough crossed the threshold to level the score.

Exeter didn’t allow the scoreboard to hinder their mindset as they came charging right back at the African Violet, working themselves well up the pitch with a lovely attacking structure. Once at the line, Loughborough gave away a penalty, and in typical fashion, Summers took the quick tap and gave it to Orchard, who was able to go over.

The subsequent twenty minutes took a very similar shape to the opening twenty minutes the last time these two sides faced each other at Epinal Way, with Loughborough dominating possession primarily inside the Exeter red zone. Still, the girls in green and white thwarted their attempts time and time again. They forced multiple errors with monstrous defensive hits and immense turnovers from the likes of Preece, which halted the Loughborough onslaught. I genuinely cannot understate how immense the Exeter defensive effort was in this period and was a testament to the heart of this squad and their commitment.

After a brief time off after a breathless opening 25 minutes, the visitors regathered themselves. They launched a play off a lineout, and the openside flanker managed to break through multiple tackles and crashed through the defence for their second try.

Loughborough conceded yet another penalty inside their 22’, and Exeter were hot on the opportunity to get their third of the game. They resorted back to their tried and tested pick-and-go game, and eventually, it was Smith from short range who dove over for a try.

Not long after, though, Exeter conceded a penalty inside their half for offside. The African Violet had been solid from the boot so far and opted to take the three, levelling the scores.

Unfortunately for the hosts, Loughborough would strike another blow as the fullback caught a deep kick and decided to run it out of her own half. She got the offload away, which meant the Exeter defence was backtracking to cover the break in the line. Clarke made an excellent tackle to bring the player down, but some intelligent play from the Loughborough scrum half as she passed the ball into a back-tracking Harriette Bond gave the visitors a penalty and a yellow card for Bond.

With the extra player advantage, Loughborough struck one more try before half-time as an overthrown lineout on Exeter's ball inside their own red zone allowed the Loughborough hooker to gather at the tail and gallop over to put them ahead going into the break.


As the second half restarted, Exeter were still down a player in the backfield. Loughborough opted to exploit this gap, kicking long, and despite her best efforts, Preece was unable to field it, and the ball bounced out for a 50/22. They struck a hard line from the lineout, bringing them close. After plenty of phases and a tremendous defensive effort, including a titanic hit from Preece, eventually, they powered over for their fourth score, extending their lead.

Exeter responded quickly and were determined not to let their rivals run away with the game. From a lineout on halfway, Summers went blindside, giving the ball to Preece, who burst through towards the 22’. Dadds took the ball flat to the line and gave a delayed pass to Smith on a rampaging run, pumping her knees and galloped straight towards the line for her second of the game.

Momentum was with the home side as they were looking to close in on that Loughborough lead. Dadds dove in at the corner but was bundled out into touch, but it showed promising signs of attacking intent. Loughborough cleared their lines from the resulting lineout but only as far as their own 22-metre line, allowing Exeter another shot at a score. This time, they capitalised with a lovely strike move off the lineout as Preece gave a gorgeous pop pass out of the tackle to a trailing Orchard, who was able to go under the sticks.

Despite Exeter’s best efforts attacking-wise, the Loughborough hooker managed to find a soft shoulder in the Exeter defensive line and burst through. She executed the two-on-one, transferring to her supporting second row, and the visitors looked clear out of sight.

With just over 15 minutes left on the clock, Exeter needed a monumental effort to pull it back. If you've been reading these reports this season, you’ll know that if there’s one thing this group in Green and white possess. Heart and desire, and in this final period, they showed exactly what they were about and left no ounce of energy out on the pitch.

It started with a brilliant turnover from Langford, who halted a Loughborough attack right in their tracks, winning the penalty for her side.

Exeter had a lineout just outside the Loughborough 22’ with a big opportunity for a score. They worked themselves to the line, and Loughborough conceded a penalty. Skeates took a quick tap supported by her fellow forwards. It was a hat-trick hero performance from Player of the Day Niamh Orchard as she carried Exeter over the line for a late try, taking the game down to the wire.

From the kick-off, Exeter tried to maintain possession to the best of their abilities with another try all they needed. Langford made a line break and offloaded to Davis, who burst through, putting Exeter on the front foot. However, with the clock in the red, Loughborough eventually turned over possession, and the referee blew her whistle.


It’s heartbreak for Exeter, who miss out on an opportunity for back-to-back spots in the final. It was an incredible game and performance, epitomising the efforts of everyone in the squad all season.

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Match date

Wed 03 Apr 2024


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