Gloucester caused a major upset when they defeated Premiership rivals Exeter Chiefs 27-12 at Sandy Park in Champions Cup action on Saturday.
The Cherry and Whites claimed the second win of their European campaign, while the Chiefs remain winless in Pool Two.
It is the first time that Rob Baxter’s men have come away with zero match points for their efforts at home for three years, while they had not lost at home since February prior to this fixture.
The home side made an ideal start to the game, opening the scoring after eight minutes. A strong counter ruck won possession back as the ball went through the hands from the Chiefs’ own ten-metre line. Centre Henry Slade made the midfield break and got the offload away brilliantly for flanker Don Armand despite falling to the ground. Armand showed a good give and go to execute the finish, while Gareth Steenson’s conversion went narrowly wide.
But Gloucester hit back 10 minutes later. Ollie Thorley proved once again what a danger he can be from broken play as from quick turnover ball he showed electrifying acceleration to cut through the Chiefs’ defence. He would be halted by an excellent Alex Cuthbert tackle but it was all in vain as the Cherry and Whites winger still managed to get the offload away for Willi Heinz to dot down. Danny Cipriani added the extras for a slender 7-5 lead.
The game went through a particularly scrappy period which directly coincided with the already bad weather conditions worsening. Both sides were playing it smart, opting for a tactical game of kicking for territory with box kicks aplenty.
Gloucester were doing especially well to play in the right areas despite having less of the possession. Cipriani added a penalty on the stroke of half-time as it was the visitors who took a 10-5 lead in to the interval.
However, Exeter started the second-half like they started the first, with scrum-half Nic White making a successful sniping break and sliding over on the wet surface after the Chiefs forwards had given their side good go-forward ball with a series of powerful carries. Steenson made no mistake with the conversion for a 12-10 lead.
A Chiefs transgression at the breakdown provided Cipriani with a chance to edge Gloucester back into the lead. And Ruan Ackermann’s side extended their lead in the 61st minute after great patience shown in the build-up. Once again Thorley sparked it with another scintillating break before he found recent recruit Jaco Visagie, the former Bulls hooker powering over in just his second game.
With 10 minutes to go, the visitors made sure of the victory. A well-worked driving maul got them close, before Ben Morgan showed too much power to bundle his way over the line. Replacement Billy Twelvetrees landed a crucial conversion into the wind out on the left touchline, meaning Exeter would need more than two converted tries.
The hosts would pull one back through Tom Lawday from the back of the rolling maul but it was Gloucester who triumphed by an eight-point margin and left Sandy Park top of the pool.
For Exeter Chiefs:Tries: Armand, WhiteCon: Steenson
For Gloucester:Tries: Heinz, Visagie, MorganCons: Cipriani 2, TwelvetreesPens: Cipriani 2
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Alex Cuthbert, 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Sam Skinner, 5 Dave Dennis, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Ben MoonReplacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tom Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Stu Townsend, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Ian Whitten
Gloucester: 15 Tom Hudson, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Willi Heinz (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jake Polledri, 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Josh HohneckReplacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Ciaran Knight, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Billy Twelvetrees, 23 Jason Woodward
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)Television match official: Éric Gauzins (France)
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