Gloucester Rugby: Exeter Chiefs pack too much power at Kingsholm
Gloucester Rugby 12 Exeter Chiefs 29
EXETER'S Tomahawk Chop chant resounded around subdued Kingsholm, twisting the knife in the wounds inflicted by the Chiefs' tight-five terrorism. The gritty visitors dished out a lesson in forward-based supremacy, bullying Gloucester in the scrum and shutting down their attacking platform.
Jonny May's late finish added to Martyn Thomas' first-half score to make it two apiece on try count.
Ben White and captain Dean Mumm provided the tries for Rob Baxter's brutal Chiefs – but it was Gareth Steenson's five penalties that proved the scoreboard differential.
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Even when Gloucester did build phase play, they had no idea how to break Exeter down.
So much for the Premiership resurgence: Gloucester head into the Heineken Cup with three defeats from five league games and no doubt amid huge frustration.
But no platform means no points in this unforgiving physical competition, and so it proved here.
Both teams started with attacking purpose, but Steenson missed a sitter of a penalty after Rupert Harden was pinged for killing the ball at a ruck.
Mike Tindall's bruising tackle helped Gloucester win a midfield penalty, and after a strong lineout drive Simpson-Daniel nearly worked Sharples free.
Gloucester broke back left, but Burns could not find Dawidiuk on the touchline, and the half-chance fizzled out.
Hudson charged down ex-Gloucester man Lewis as Gloucester sustained the pressure, but the ball bobbled dead.
Knoyle tapped a penalty in range of the posts, only for the hosts to concede possession.
Exeter might have plenty of ambition, but they will never turn down points.
So when Steenson had another penalty sighter, there was to be no tap-and-go from the Devonians.
The Chiefs marksman took aim from the touchline – and his impressive strike hit the crossbar.
Gloucester recovered in the melee, Burns finding a hurried touch.
Exeter bungled a midfield runaround though, with Sharples grubbering to touch on the Exeter 22.
A smart tap-pass from Hill put Exeter into Gloucester's 22 after a quick-tap penalty from Lewis.
The neat half-back's reverse pass switch nearly caught the Cherry and Whites unawares – but a forward pass stemmed the Exeter tide.
The Chiefs outmuscled Gloucester at the scrum though, handing Steenson a third opportunity off the tee. And this time the visiting goal-kicker made no mistake.
Gloucester's riposte was both immediate and cut-throat.
Tindall tapped down the restart, Savage powered into contact – and quick ball allowed Burns and Twelvetrees to work a midfield scissors.
Full-back Thomas raced into the gap, and clear to the line.
Steenson's famed tee-time accuracy continued to elude him though, as the Northern Irish out-half then missed his third shot at goal of the day.
Twelvetrees wasted a 22 attacking platform by firing a pass into touch.
Then Kvesic held back Dean Mumm off the ball, making no attempt to disguise the gamesmanship.
Exeter opted for the corner, Lewis nearly swept clear, before Dawidiuk was penalised for killing the ball under the posts.
Even Steenson's faltering range could not deny the Chiefs their second set of penalty points.
The visitors kicked their eighth penalty of the half to the corner.
Chris Whitehead cut within inches of Gloucester's whitewash, before Ben White barrelled over.
Hudson's second charge-down on Lewis gifted Exeter huge fortune next.
The ball cannoned off Dave Ewers, he raced through the statuesque Gloucester line to scoop up and send Mumm haring to the corner.
Tindall made a fine try-saving cover tackle, but the danger was by no means clear.
Burns missed touch with his clearance, Exeter attacked again – and drove a penalty lineout to the cusp of the tryline.
Hoani Tui was ruled short of the whitewash by the TMO – then Exeter were penalised at the scrum. Shaun Knight replaced Rupert Harden for the set-piece in question, but Gloucester were hugely fortunate to receive that penalty – and escape to half-time trailing only 13-5.
Tindall conceded a penalty for tackling Mumm without the ball after the restart and Steenson landed his third goal.
Gloucester won a deserved scrum penalty next, but Burns could not convert, booting the tee away in disgust.
The Cherry and Whites built extended pressure in the Exeter 22 – but had neither the guile nor the grit to break down the resolute Chiefs.
Wave after ineffective Gloucester wave, the Chiefs' defensive regimen lapped it all up.
Robson's smart grubber forced Exeter onto the backfoot, only for Gloucester to concede a cheap penalty at the lineout.
Gloucester's territorial resurgence ended swiftly when Ian Whitten bisected Gloucester's soft centre, feeding Haydn Thomas who in turn sent Mumm charging on.
Steenson then cut the line, finding Matt Jess – but Burns flung out a hand to cut out his potential scoring pass.
After more TMO consultation, referee Carley judged it a knock-on not a penalty.
Exeter demolished Gloucester in the scrum, then set a driving lineout from the penalty.
The tight phases kept on coming, Exeter held their nerve – and captain Mumm powered home.
Steenson's conversion condemned Gloucester to a 15-minute turnaround battle.
The home side required a complete reversal of fortunes and line-breaking in order to rescue their day.
That catch-up job started perfectly when replacement May cut a fine, deep line at pace off Burns, to blast under the posts.
Not prone to panic, the Chiefs rarely crumble though: once they had forced a Gloucester knock-on in their own 22, the side that had controlled the contest wrestled back that initiative.
Exeter ruined Gloucester in another scrum, won their rightful penalty, and Steenson landed his fourth goal of the day.
The Chiefs zipped into phase play after yet another scrum penalty, Gloucester killed the ball under their own posts, and Steenson slotted his fifth penalty.
Stooke hit the tryline with the game's final play, but he knocked on trying to finish.
After all the ineffective huff and puff, a consolation would hardly have registered in any case.
Martyn Thomas 8
Charlie Sharples 6
Mike Tindall 6
Billy Twelvetrees 6
James Simpson-Daniel 6
Freddie Burns 6
Tavis Knoyle 6
Yann Thomas 5
Darren Dawidiuk 5
Rupert Harde 5
Tom Savage 5
James Hudson 6
Sione Kalamafoni 5
Matt Kvesic 6
Ben Morgan 5