New boys Exeter shock Gloucester
September 4, 2010
Exeter's Phil Dollman gets rid of the ball under pressure from Gloucester's Mike Tindall
© Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs announced their arrival in the Aviva Premiership with a stirring 22-10 victory over Gloucester at Sandy Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Chiefs enjoyed a dream start to life in the top flight, with Mark Foster touching down after just five minutes of play. Gloucester posted a swift reply through James Simpson-Daniel but the boot of Gareth Steenson helped the home side into a 16-5 lead at the break.
Tim Taylor reduced the visitors' deficit when he crossed 14 minutes into the second half but Steenson landed another penalty towards the end of the third quarter before slotting over a drop goal with just over 12 minutes remaining to put the seal on a memorable opening day for the home side.
Steenson had effectively proven the difference between the two sides because while he landed every single kick which came his way, his opposite number Nicky Robinson did not manage to convert one. Taylor's early try was, of course, also crucial.
A badly sliced clearance kick from Mike Tindall gave the Chiefs possession, allowing them to build up a period of pressure. On entering the Gloucester 22, the home side skilfully moved the ball wide to create an easy try on the overlap for Foster, which Steenson promptley converted.
Gloucester hit back with a try of their own after 12 minutes. Tindall made amends for his earlier error with a trademark powerful run, brushing aside a few defenders and taking his side to underneath the home posts. From the resulting scrum, Luke Narraway and David Lewis combined well to give Simpson-Daniel his chance to score in the corner.
Four minutes later, Exeter extended their lead when Steenson expertly fired over a 40-metre angled penalty - but that lead should have been wiped out five minutes later. After some brilliant passing - with Simpson-Daniel prominent - Narraway crossed, only for the final pass to be ruled forward.
Gloucester's misfortune continued when a dejected Olly Morgan left the field with another injury - and soon after Robinson shaved the post with a penalty attempt. The Cherry and Whites were made to pay for their errors when they offended at a ruck, Steenson making no mistake with a penalty to give the home side a 13-5 lead with eight minutes of the first half remaining.
Moments later, Robinson was presented with an opportunity to reduce the arrears with a straightforward 40-metre kick - but his attempt hit the post. In contrast, Steenson fired over a superb angled kick just before the interval to give his side a healthy advantage.
Four minutes after the restart, Robinson had another penalty chance from 35 yards - but a fourth miss had the outside half shaking his head in disbelief. Despite this miss, the visitors continued to dominate proceedings in the second half and one lovely run from centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu nearly brought them a deserved score.
On 54 minutes, the visitors' sustained pressure finally told, with replacement Taylor touching down after more good work from Simpson-Daniel. An utterly dejected Robinson saw his conversion attempt come back off a post.
Two unforced errors from Gloucester then gave Exeter a platform and once again Steenson showed the value of a goalkicker with another successful penalty. The visitors had yet another chance when Lesley Vainikolo was put clear with 20 metres to go - but again a Gloucester pass was ruled forward.
With 12 minutes to go Exeter produced their best attacking phase of the match, culminating in a simple drop goal from Steenson. That left Gloucester with a mountain to climb - and the home side comfortably held on to their advantage.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September