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Kelsey Jones

Kelsey Jones

Kelsey Jones try helps Gloucester-Hartpury reach first final

Wales hooker Kelsey 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. 

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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 Lleucu George starting at outside half and Bethan Lewis in the back row. 

They were joined off the bench during the game by Sisi Tuipulotu and Lisa 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. 

With Exeter Chiefs downing reigning champions Saracens at home it means there will be a new winner of the Premier 15s title this season when the two teams meet at Kingsholm on Saturday, 24 June. 

It will be a battle between the top two ranked teams in the regular league season, although the Chiefs, who were beaten in last year’s final by Saracens, will have few fears about heading to Kingsholm having won there 58-14 in the final round of league fixtures on 3 June. 

Gloucester-Hartpury had already clinched top spot, and a home semi-final, going into that game, but they came out fully-loaded and all guns blazing against arch-rivals the bears. Within three minutes of the start, No 8 Sarah Beckett had bagged the opening score and then Jones converted a driving line-out for the second on the half-hour mark. 

That made it 14-0 at the break and left the Bears needing to hit back in the second half. They did just that with a brace of driving line-out tries from England hooker Lark Davies, the first of which Snowsill converted. 

The Wales outside half just missed with her second shot at goal, but the gap was a mere two points as the game moved into the final quarter. Gloucester-Hartpury shut down the comeback shortly after Lewis had a try ruled out because of an earlier Emma Sing knock-on. 

Then they created enough space out wide from Rachel Lund to stroll over for the matchwinning try which Emma Sing once again converted to secure a trip to the final. 

The following day the Chiefs left it late to pip the champions 24-21 thanks to a 79th minute try from Olivia Mcgoverne. That came soon after Saracens had lost their Welsh international back row forward, Georgia Evans, to a technical yellow card that left them one short for the closing stages. 

That was their third yellow of the game after losing Red Roses duo Holly Aitchison and Marlie Packer in the space of three minutes early in the second half. Aitchison had converted tries from Hannah Botterman and Sarah McKenna to give the champions interval 14-0 lead, but the Chiefs made a blistering start to the second half. 

Kath Zackary crossed for a try and Mcgoverne added the conversion and a penalty to cut the gap to four points. The two yellow cards then added to the Chiefs momentum and Hope Rogers picked up a second try that was once again improved by Mcgoverne’s boot to give the hosts the lead at 17-14. 

Jess Breach then got Sarries back into the fight with a try in the 69th minute that Aitchison converted to make it 21-17. The final 10 minutes were nervy for both sides until Eilidh Sinclair raced in to win the game. 

It means Abbie Fleming, who started in the back row, could well face a number of her Welsh teammates at Kingsholm. Robyn Wilkins was also included among the Chief’s replacements. 

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