Gloucester 37-23 Exeter Chiefs, Aviva Premiership, January 8
Slick Gloucester see off Chiefs
January 8, 2011
Gloucester's Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu charges forward during Saturday's clash at Kingsholm
© Getty Images
Gloucester ran in five tries during an impressive 37-23 victory over Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm on Saturday afternoon.
The Chiefs rocked their west country rivals with a 22-10 success in Devon almost four months ago, but hopes of Exeter claiming a first Premiership double quickly disappeared against fired-up opponents.
Scrum-half Rory Lawson and fullback Olly Morgan set the tone with first-half tries, before the outstanding James Simpson-Daniel, his fellow wing Charlie Sharples and substitute Akapusi Qera posted further scores. Fly-half Freddie Burns chipped in with two penalties and two conversions, and Tim Taylor kicked the final conversion, with Gloucester maintaining an unbeaten Premiership home record that stretches back to October 2009.
Exeter, as has been their trademark since gaining promotion, displayed a workaholic attitude that was rewarded through tries in quick succession for flanker Tom Johnson and centre Sereli Naqelevuki, while Naqelevuki also crossed during injury time.
Gareth Steenson slotted one conversion and two penalties, and it was to Exeter's credit they did not fold after Gloucester led 25-6 midway through the third quarter. But the home side were good value for a win that keeps them in touch with the title play-off places.
Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath refused to press the panic button following last weekend's surprise defeat at Leeds, making just two changes as wing Sharples replaced Lesley Vainikolo and prop Paul Doran-Jones took over from Pierre Capdevielle.
Exeter, meanwhile, welcomed back prolific points scorer Steenson for his first start since suffering a knee injury in October, and the Chiefs also paraded two ex-Gloucester players - wing Mark Foster and scrum-half Haydn Thomas.
Steenson and his opposite number Burns exchanged early penalties after the Chiefs dominated the initial exchanges, but Gloucester stung them through a 17th-minute breakaway score.
The Exeter forwards, as they had done for much of the opening quarter, set up a promising attacking platform, yet were punished when they turned over possession. Gloucester, despite being 20 metres from their own line, did not consider a safety-first kicking option as flanker Peter Buxton found Simpson-Daniel, whose inside pass allowed Lawson an unchallenged 40-metre run to score.
Burns failed miserably with the conversion attempt, but Exeter appeared rattled as Gloucester strived to increase the tempo and utilise dangerous backs like Simpson-Daniel and Sharples. And it only took them another nine minutes to leave Exeter floundering again as further long-range ambition reaped its reward.
Gloucester this time ran a penalty deep inside their own half, skipper Mike Tindall made the initial headway, Simpson-Daniel again acted as link-man and Morgan finished off in style. Burns slotted the extras, and although Steenson booted his second penalty shortly afterwards, Gloucester were good value for their 15-6 advantage.
A Burns penalty extended the lead to 12 points by half-time, with Exeter temporarily a man short after Thomas was sin-binned by referee Martin Fox for a technical infringement deep inside Chiefs' 22. Exeter battled hard despite their numerical disadvantage, but relentless Gloucester pressure eventually told when Simpson-Daniel pounced for their third try.
Burns looked to have got there himself, only to be tackled inches short, yet from the ensuing scrum - and with Thomas still off - Lawson's pass gave Simpson-Daniel a simple finish. Burns converted, leaving Gloucester with almost 30 minutes to hunt down a bonus point try as Exeter found themselves facing a prolonged damage-limitation exercise.
Johnson gave the visitors a glimmer of hope when he collected an opportunist try after twice kicking the ball on during a lung-busting surge, but Gloucester still held all the aces at 25-11 ahead. And the important fourth touchdown arrived 17 minutes from time as slick passing enabled Sharples to breach Exeter's defence, before Naqelevuki added the Chiefs'second try, converted by Steenson.
Gloucester did not lose their attacking appetite though, and as Exeter's defence shredded, Qera capitalised, but Chiefs concluded a frantic second period with Naqelevuki's second try that rounded off the game's final move.
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