Chiefs 24 Gloucester 15


Exeter Chiefs 24

Gloucester 15

Mark Stevens at Sandy Park

Pain last week, ecstasy this week.

Exeter Chiefs breathed life back into their Gallagher Premiership play-off push by securing their first league double of the season, downing in-form Gloucester with a performance that certainly augurs well for the future.

Rob Baxter’s banished the blues of seven days previous against Wasps to produce one of their best displays of the campaign so far. Again, the club’s highly-rated youngsters stepped up to the plate, whilst the older generation helped provide the necessary glue to sink the Cherry & Whites.

Despite falling behind to Freddie Clarke’s early try, the hosts battled defiantly during a first half in which they had to not only contend with the visitors, but also a howling downfield breeze right in the face.

Jack Innard’s score ensured the Chiefs would head for the sheds at the turns level at five apiece, but it could easily have been more for the home side who were unlucky not to have added to their tally.

With the elements in their favour in the second period, there was no stopping the Chiefs who would secure the all-important, bonus point win thanks to further scores from Patrick Schickerling, Olly Woodburn and Tom O’Flaherty.

Gloucester threatened a late fightback with scores of their own through Santiago Carreras and Charlie Chapman but, unlike the previous week, the Chiefs would not surrender their lead on this occasion.

Ahead of kick-off, the Chiefs made slight tweaks to their line-up from the previous week. Up front, Don Armand returned for the first time in a fortnight, while behind Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and Ian Whitten were added to the back division.

And it was Armand who was afforded the first chance of the game, the flanker knocking on just short of the Gloucester line, after Josh Hodge and Whitten had combined cleverly down the left flank.

It was a solid start from the Devonians and they certainly set the tone during the opening exchanges. However, it would be Gloucester who struck with their first meaningful attack. A loose kick from Joe Simmonds was swallowed up deep inside his own half by Ollie Thorley, the winger burst down field, after which it was fed through the hands of the visitors to the waiting Clarke, who was able to cross in the right corner.

Thankfully, Lloyd Evans’ touchline conversion failed to hit the mark and it was not long before the home side were back on the front foot. Wingers Woodburn and O’Flaherty were ever-willing runners, whilst behind them Hodge continues to flourish with his searing pace and his ability to propel his side forward at every opportunity.

With Gloucester struggling to contain the home swell, they coughed up three successive penalties close to their own line. Skipper Lewis Ludlow was warned twice by referee Tom Foley for infringing, but together with his fellow forwards they would do enough to repel the home charge, eventually winning a turnover when the Chiefs knocked on with the line in sight.

Undeterred, the Chiefs would continue to go about their work and just before the half-hour mark they were rewarded for their efforts. Strong approach work involving Armand and Woodburn won them a penalty, which Simmonds dispatched into the bottom right corner.

Now, five metres out, the line-out plan was initiated, the forwards securing possession, before the input of several backs helped to propel Innard over for the try.

It was no more than the Chiefs deserved, but they could easily have bagged more points before the break had it not been for some solid Gloucester defensive, as well as an over-exuberance in Exeter’s attack.


Just as they had started the first half strongly, so the Chiefs came out firing again on the resumption. The early play was strong, if not hugely effective, but with pressure slowly begin to mount, so Gloucester were starting to concede territory and penalties.

With more play under the visitors’ posts, Foley eventually lost patience with Gloucester’s tactics, sending Billy Twelvetrees to the sidelines for a ten-minute stint.

Up a man, the Chiefs didn’t take long to make the numbers game pay dividends. Another Innard tap penalty was followed up by a plethora of pick-and-go raids, the fruits of which resulted in Schickerling crashing over by the posts for the score, converted by the boot of Simmonds.

Moments later and the impressive Hodge came within a whisker of adding another score, the fleet-footed full-back haring after his own clearance kick, only to be denied by the efforts of a last-gasp touchdown deep in the Gloucester dead ball area.

By now, though, the Chiefs were ruling the roost and it came as no surprise when they extended their lead just shy of the hour mark. Working their way through a series of attacking phases, they had done enough to stretch the Gloucester defensive line, exposing a yawning gap out wide for Simmonds to send a cross-field kick into the path of Woodburn, who needed no second invitation on how to score.

It was the winger’s 41st try in 119 top flight games and he won’t have got an easier touchdown.

The Chiefs, though, were far from finished and with the bonus point firmly in their sights, they continued to pile forward in numbers. Jannes Kirsten was immense all afternoon, whilst other around him were just as inspired.

Thrusting themselves forward at every opportunity, the all-important score was not long in come as replacement Jack Maunder sniped off the back of a ruck, raced clear of the cover, before drawing in two defenders before offloading to O’Flaherty to glide in under the sticks for the converted score.

Sandy Park was a crescendo of noise, but Gloucester were far from finished. With Exeter’s young lock Dafydd Jenkins shown yellow for a professional foul, it was now the turn of the visitors to make the most of the numerical advantage.

With the Welshman watching from the sidelines, he could did little as the visitors used a catch-and-drive line-out to soak up home defenders, before they expertly worked the ball from one wing to the other, allowing Carreras to dive over in the corner.

The natives were concerned, but not overly perturbed at that stage. That was until replacement Chapman pounced on a home error to dot down for a third Gloucester try just five minutes from time.

Surely there would be no late heroics again from the visitors?

Although they huffed and puffed in the dying minutes, the Chiefs were mindful of matters the previous week, this time killing the clock down with ruthless efficiency. It was just what they had craved against Wasps, but somehow the Midlanders were able to conjure up some late magic.

For the Chiefs, it was a vital victory. Not just the five points accrued, but also the fact that Gloucester would head home pointless.

Chiefs: J Hodge; O Woodburn (F Cordero 66), I Whitten, T Hendrickson, T O'Flaherty; J Simmonds (capt), S Hidalgo-Clyne (J Maunder 54); A Hepburn (B Keast 70), J Innard (J Yeandle 70), P Schickerling (M Street 66); J Kirsten, D Jenkins; D Armand, R Capstick, S Grondona (D Ewers 51). Replacements (not used): O Leatherbarrow, H Skinner.

Tries - Innard, Schickerling, Woodburn, O’Flaherty; Conversions - J Simmonds (2)

Yellow Card: Jenkins

Gloucester: K Moyle; S Carreras, G Kveseladze, B Twelvetrees (T Seabrook 66), O Thorley; L Evans (A Hastings 26), B Meehan (C Chapman 47); J Ford-Robinson (H Elrington 51), J Singleton (S Socino 47), F Balmain (K Gotovtsev 51); F Clarke, M Alemanno (A Davidson 66); J Reid (J Clement 57), L Ludlow (capt), R Ackermann.

Tries - Clarke, Carreras, Chapman

Yellow Card: Twelvetrees

Referee: T Foley

Attendance: 12,984

Sign up to the Chiefs Newsletter

To receive a copy of the Exeter Chiefs Newsletter, please enter your email address below. You will then receive an email to confirm that you wish to receive it. You can unsubscribe at any time simply by following the link at the bottom of the email.