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Exeter Athletic Dakota Ladies

Exeter Athletic Dakota Ladies

Exeter Athletic Dakota Ladies off to a flying start

The newly formed Exeter Athletic Dakota Women have had a flawless start to the season with 5 from 5 wins and EURFC Women are already witnessing the benefits of providing another playing experience for our University students through the Exeter Athletic weekend fixtures. 

Exeter Athletic Dakota Ladies was originally founded in 2019 to support Exeter Chiefs Women in their application process for a place in the Allianz Premiership 15s. The side played in the National 2 South West (West) League, and after a successful season found themselves comfortably at the top of the table. The side also organised two invitational fixtures during the season against Newcastle Falcons and The Army. Players like Ebony Jefferies (previous University of Exeter student and Linde Van Der Velden (Netherlands captain)) were invited to represent the side, with the endeavour to represent Exeter Chiefs Women in the premiership the following year. Off the back of this success, Exeter Chiefs Women secured themselves a spot in the premiership for the 2020-21 season and have had a successful first two seasons so far. At the beginning of the 2022-23 season, the Exeter Chiefs side currently includes 8 University of Exeter students and 4 alumni. 

The 2021-22 season found Exeter University Women (EURFC Women) hitting the highest number of members to date. EURFC Women had two sides competing in BUCS leagues in the 2021-22 season which was brilliant for the development of the Women’s game and University sport. Despite this, a high number of players were missing out on playing opportunities. With the University’s Head of Women’s Rugby Poppy Leitch keen to source additional playing experience for EURFC women’s club members and work with Exeter Athletic, the application for the named Exeter Athletic Dakota Women to re-enter the NC 2 South West (West) League was accepted for the 2022-23 season. 

“We have seen massive benefits to having an additional playing opportunity through Exeter Athletic. 91% of our members have now played a fixture, for either the 1st, 2nd or Athletic side. The type of rugby we see in the Athletic league is very different to that within BUCS. As well as playing opportunity, it has also allowed us to create connections and bonds with local rugby communities. We have more fixtures the other side of Christmas, we are excited to get more people playing and hopefully more successful results.” Poppy Leitch – Head of Womens Rugby  

Exeter Athletic Dakota Women hope to progress this team through the National League levels in the next two years and eventually compete in the Championship. This league sits just below the Allianz Premiership.  

Alongside the Exeter Athletic Dakota Women’s side, EURFC Women have two other teams who are competing in British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS). After successful promotion last year, the first team are competing in the Womens National League where they are currently sitting 3rd in the table- an excellent start to the season in a new league. Due to the calibre of players coming through the university programme, the second team has shifted from a development focused side to a performance squad. They are competing in Western 1A and are also sitting 3rd in the table with the hope to get promoted in the next 2 years to the Womens Premier League which sits just below the Womens National League.  

Exeter Athletic has been a fantastic addition to the EURFC Women family this year as we welcomed many new members from across the Devon county of all ages and rugby backgrounds. We have had an incredible start to this year's season, being an undefeated side heading into the Christmas break. It has been wonderful to have both familiar faces and new players filling the team sheets each week. Having the step up from 2 BUCS teams last year, to now filling 3 teams, with one entering the club rugby scenehas been an incredible opportunity and step forward in a positive direction for the club and women's rugby at the university. It has allowed so many new girls to get game time, learning opportunities and to work with more experienced playersin the Exeter Athletic side, as well as building stronger connections within the EURFC Women family and across the county as we dive into the more club rugby "traditions" in our post-match team meals with our opposition  

Looking ahead into the new year and the second half of the rugby season, I am hoping to see Exeter Athletic continue in this upward trajectory as we strive for promotion into a higher league and continue to work hard, build as a side, and support each other as we improve as individual players. Hannah Ulcoq- EURFC Women Player. 


Women’s Rugby is one of our Performance Sports at the University of Exeter as such women’s rugby performance athletes receive high-quality coaching and a comprehensive support services package. For more information about our women’s rugby programme please click here  

Date: 3 January 2023