Abbie Fleming Guides Chiefs Into English Final That Will Have Plenty Of Welsh Interest

Abbie Fleming will carry Welsh hopes of a winning finish to the women’s rugby season after her team, Exeter Chiefs, claimed a memorable victory at the weekend.

Wales second row Fleming was in the Chiefs back row unit – playing at blindside flanker – as they overcame Saracens, 24-21, in the semi-final of the Allianz Premier 15s.

Experienced Wales back Robyn Wilkins was also included among the Chief’s replacements.

It was revenge for Exeter – against a Sarries team that included Fleming’s Wales teammate Georgia Evans – making up for their defeat to the London club in last year’s final.

The Chiefs left it late to pip champions Saracens thanks to a 79th minute try from Olivia Mcgoverne.

That came soon after Saracens had lost their Welsh international back row forward Evans to a technical yellow card that left them one short for the closing stages.

There will be more Welsh interest in the final, too, which will be against Gloucester-Hartpury on June 24.

The Cherries have flanker Beth Lewis and Six Nations player of the championship nominee Sisilia  Tuipulotu, as well as Kelsey Jones, Lleucu George and Lisa Neumann in their ranks.

Jones was among the try scorers as Gloucester-Hartpury won the west country derby against Bristol Bears to reach their first Allianz Premier 15s final with a 21-12 triumph at Kingsholm.

Gloucester-Hartpury had finished on top of the table after the regular league season and underlined their status as the top seeds in the play-offs with a strong performance.

Jones was one of three Welsh starters in their line-up, with George starting at outside-half and Lewis in the back row.

They were joined off the bench during the game by Tuipulotu and Neumann, while the Bears had half-backs Keira Bevan and Elinor Snowsill in their back line and Alisha Butchers in their back row.

Gwenllian Pyrs and Bryonie King were used off the bench by the Bears.

Tuipulotu, who enjoyed a breakthrough TikTok Six Nations for Wales, said: “I am proud of my team and the performance they put out.

“I’ve got to give it to the girls, we have had some new people in the team this year, but I feel we have got closer as a team and I guess that shows on the field as well as off.

“I’m just glad I get to inspire little ones. I had a little girl the other day come up to me and say ‘I started playing rugby because of you’ and that really touched my heart.”

The final will be a battle between the top two ranked teams in the regular league season, although the Chiefs will have few fears about heading to Kingsholm, having won there, 58-14, in the final round of league fixtures on June 3.