Exeter edge out Gloucester in epic encounter
May 4, 2013
Gareth Steenson steers Chiefs past Gloucester%]
Exeter booked a place in next season's Heineken Cup with a thrilling 40-39 victory over Gloucester in their Aviva Premiership clash at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Chiefs were out-scored five tries to three but fly-half Gareth Steenson steered the hosts home with a 25-point haul including a last-gasp penalty to seal the win.
It also marked the last game in respective club colours for two long-serving players. Exeter's No.8 Richie Baxter made his final appearance for the club, his 431st in a Chiefs' shirt, since he made his senior debut away to Fylde 16 years ago.
Gloucester flanker Peter Buxton, meanwhile, signed off with his 274th appearance for the Cherry and Whites before making the short trip down the M5 to play Championship rugby under Andy Robinson at Bristol.
Exeter started full of confidence running the ball from deep and they scored the opening try after six minutes as scrum half Hayden Thomas fed his half back partner Steenson. The fly-half passed the ball to inside centre Jason Shoemark who wiggled at the tackle enough to offload of lock Dean Mumm who scored, with Steenson adding the touchline conversion followed by a 40 metre penalty.
Exeter boss Rob Baxter reacts to his side's victory%]
Exeter continued to dominate possession and again pressed the Gloucester line with a break from Mumm, who fed lock Damian Welch. The second-row was tackled but rolled towards the line to touchdown. Referee Greg Garner referred the decision to the television match official Geoff Warren who, after a long deliberation, awarded the try. Steenson was off target with the conversion from out wide but then added a 20 metre penalty.
Gloucester finally got point on the board after 20 minutes through a penalty from fly-half Freddie Burns, followed by their first try when Jonny May burst 45 metres down the touchline. With 10 minutes of the first half remaining, another Exeter error led to Burns breaking from his own half and, with a man over, fed lock Lua Lokotui who shipped the ball to winger Charlie Sharples, who fired his afterburners to score Gloucester's second try, with Burns adding the extras.
Henry Trinder added the Cherry and White's third with an interception try after a mistake from Scaysbrook. The centre raced away avoided a couple of half tackles to score under the posts. Burns conversion put the visitors in front for the first time. But Exeter regained the lead on the stroke of half time after a series of infringements at a string of 10-metre scrums saw referee Garner award a penalty try. Steenson's conversion gave the Chiefs a 25-22 lead at the break.
Match-winner Gareth Steenson talks to ESPN%]
The Exeter fly-half increased the Chiefs lead with three penalties in the opening 15 minutes of the second period. Gloucester woke up midway through the half with full-back Rob Cook crossing in the corner for the bonus point try. Burns added the conversion and a 30 metre penalty to reduce the arrears to two points with 17 minutes remaining, but, with the wind having turned in his favour, Steenson added his sixth penalty.
With under eight minutes to go, Burns squeezed in the corner for Gloucester's fifth try before adding the conversion with the ball bouncing off the far upright to get the Cherry and Whites back in to the lead.
Steenson was then short with his touchline penalty attempt with less than three minutes on the clock before fullback Luke Arscott sliced a drop goal. However, Steenson redeemed himself from the penalty tee to step up and kick the points which sealed victory and European rugby for next season.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter was delighted with his side's desire to win the game. "You could tell from the players that it was all about winning the game and that's not the worse quality to have. They just wanted to get that game won; they had put a lot in to that 80 minutes and they deserved that opportunity to win it," he said.
"We carried very hard, great control of the ball, real great attacking intent, and we got a decent lead. To be fair, you have to take your hats off to Gloucester as I think most teams in the Premiership, including the top four, would have wilted under that," he said. "But the problem that you have with Gloucester is that, with them being such a good counter-attacking side, the first time that you make a mistake you are probably going to concede a try - which is pretty much what happened."
Gloucester director of rugby Nigel Davies agreed it was a great game of rugby but feels his side should have won. He said: "I think the turning point was when we could just get three points on the board and take breath so we could regroup. The one thing that this Gloucester side has done, apart from one game, is show their resilience and come back.
"Through that resilience, the ability that we have in the team and the pace to finish off half-chances, we came back in to the game. By the end of the match I though that we should have won the game. We probably didn't control it for long enough periods; the set piece didn't give us enough and there were various reasons for that both of our own doing and some I don't quite understand, but that is how it goes."
Gloucester's Henry Trinder races away to score © Getty Images
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