Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

Chiefs outmuscle Gloucester

Gloucester's Billy Twelvetrees is tackled by Exeter's Ian Whitten and Ben White during the Aviva Premiership match at Kingsholm.

Gloucester were overpowered by a dominant Exeter pack as the Chiefs claimed an emphatic Aviva Premiership success at Kingsholm.

The visitors could even afford for fly-half Gareth Steenson to miss three of his first four shots at goal as they cruised home 29-12.

Steenson ended with a 19-point haul from five penalties and conversions of tries in each half by flanker Ben White and skipper Dean Mumm, leaving Gloucester in disarray as they prepare for next week's Heineken Cup opener against Perpignan.

The home side mustered touchdowns for full-back Martyn Thomas and substitute back Jonny May, while fly-half Freddie Burns slotted one conversion, but it was a performance that fell way below Gloucester's normal standards.

Rugby director Nigel Davies has real issues to address, having seen his team lose three of their first five league games - two of those on home soil - as they continue to perform below expectations.

Exeter, in comparison, have no such worries, bouncing back superbly from defeat against Premiership champions Leicester seven days ago and appearing well set for another strong campaign under head coach Rob Baxter's astute direction.

Exeter dominated the early exchanges in terms of territory, but their cause was not helped by Steenson missing two penalties before he eventually found his range after 19 minutes.

It only served, though, to stir Gloucester into action after their forwards found it particularly tough going, and they responded by conjuring a sparkling try.

Centre Mike Tindall was initially involved on two occasions, winning the restart following Steenson's penalty, and then powering forward before Gloucester's slick back division complemented his impressive approach work.

Exeter did their utmost to organise themselves defensively, but Gloucester were too sharp and England international Billy Twelvetrees delivered a scoring pass to Thomas, who cut an incisive angle and finished off in style.

Burns could not add the conversion, yet Exeter were unruffled and following a second Steenson strike that edged them ahead, they extended their lead.

Gloucester were powerless to prevent another relentless Exeter forward surge, and it was White who claimed the touchdown, with Steenson's conversion making it 13-5.

And it almost became even worse for the home side, as more outstanding close-quarter work from Exeter pack resulted in Chiefs prop Hoani Tui being held up just inches short of the line.

After claiming successive wins against Northampton and Newcastle, Gloucester were a pale shadow of the team that delivered those results, and Tindall did not help their cause when he conceded a penalty within four minutes of the restart.

Gloucester had comfortably dealt with Exeter's latest attack, but a reckless Tindall challenge off the ball earned him a ticking off from referee Matt Carley, and Steenson kicked the resulting three points available for a 16-5 advantage.

Burns then missed a chance to close the deficit when he drifted a 47th-minute penalty kick wide, and Exeter continued to find themselves under no sustained pressure.

It was often a comedy of errors from Gloucester, whereas Exeter were far more controlled and disciplined, especially inside the home team's half, and they enjoyed sustained control entering the final quarter.

Gloucester could not cope with the Chiefs' technical expertise, and they extended their lead through another irresistible display of support work that ended with Mumm crashing over.

Steenson's conversion gave Exeter a 23-5 lead, and they maintained a vice-like grip on the contest despite Gloucester flickering into life through a brilliant May finish when he collected Burns' pass one-handed.

Burns, though, could easily have been off the field, escaping without a yellow card when an apparent deliberate knock-on stemmed an Exeter attack, but the Chiefs had already done enough to send themselves into next weekend's opening Heineken Cup appointment with Cardiff Blues in confident mood.

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