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Premiership Women’s Rugby: Exeter Chiefs impress ahead of semi-final

Image source, Rex Features

Image description, Exeter finished the season in fourth place, one point behind third-placed Bristol Bears

Exeter Chiefs coach Steve Salvin said his side's 59-27 win over Leicester Tigers put them in a good position for Sunday's Premiership Women's Rugby semi-final in Gloucester.

The Chiefs scored nine tries, with winger Connie Clarke scoring two on her debut.

English striker Maddie Feaunati and Merryn Doidge also scored two goals each and Exeter finished the season in fourth place, setting their sights on a semi-final against league leaders Gloucester.

“It's obviously a repeat of last year's final. I think the challenge for us is to perform better than we did this time last year,” Salvin told BBC Radio Devon.

“In the end we were a little disappointed with what we put on up there, but we know that when we're fit and on top form we can take on any team. So it's going to be a great game.”

He added: “The fact that everyone has spent a lot of time on the field is hugely helpful for the semi-finals next weekend.”

“It was important that everyone got enough match practice today. I think it's a really significant thing for everyone to achieve that.

“I think if you had offered us 57 points before the game, we would have definitely accepted them.”

“Great hopes” for Clarke

Image source, Rex Features

Image description, Connie Clarke’s first appearance in the top division ended impressively

Teenager Clarke will never forget her first start for Exeter.

She set up the Chiefs' first try through Hope Rogers and then scored two more goals in seven first-half minutes to secure a place in next week's semi-final at Kingsholm for the England Under-18s, who signed with the club in March after starting the season at the University of Exeter.

“We have high hopes for Connie,” said Salvin.

“She is 18 years old, so we have to be realistic about what we expect of her over the next 18 to 24 months.

“But it won’t have done them any harm today to score two tries on their first Premier League start.

“She deserves it no less. I told her in the tunnel before the game: 'Just go out there and enjoy it, but you fully deserve to be here.' And she looked like she really enjoyed it and the two tries were the icing on the cake.”