Gloucester overcome poor recent form to gain creditable draw at Exeter
Gloucester overcame their poor recent run of results to earn a well-merited 27-27 draw with last season's Aviva Premiership runners-up Exeter at Sandy Park.
It could have even better for Gloucester, who recorded their second draw of the season, had not Damian Welch finished off a driving line-out 30 seconds from time to level. Gareth Steenson was wide with the touchline conversion attempt.
The visitors had stunned an out-of-sorts Exeter with a fiercely committed performance including strong defence that unsettled their opponents, who made a glut of errors to concede tries to Matt Scott, Charlie Sharples and Ben Morgan.
Greig Laidlaw converted all three and kicked a penalty. Billy Twelvetrees added a long-range penalty.
Aimless kicking from Steenson and Will Chudley, coupled with numerous handling errors, were responsible for a poor performance from Exeter. Ian Whitten scored two tries for them, Thomas Waldrom and Welch the others with Steenson converting two and adding a penalty.
An already injury-hit Gloucester were forced to make two late changes to their starting line-up with Billy Burns and Gareth Evans withdrawn to be replaced by Mark Atkinson and Morgan.
However Sharples was fit to make his 200th competitive appearance for Gloucester and his team tackled strongly in the opening period to keep the home side in check.
Their efforts were rewarded in the 12th minute when Lachie Turner's error gave the visitors a line-out and platform in the Chiefs' 22 from which they capitalised when Scott broke through to score.
Laidlaw's conversion gave the visitors a 7-0 lead at the end of an error-ridden first quarter before Exeter deservedly drew level.
A succession of drives close to the visitors' line saw Waldrom power past the attempted tackles of Paddy McAllister and Twelvetrees for a try which Steenson converted.
Within two minutes, Gloucester had regained the lead when Sharples celebrated his milestone by leaping higher than Steenson to gather a well-judged kick from Laidlaw to race away and score.
Television replays seemed to indicate that James Hook had put a foot in touch just prior to Laidlaw's kick but the score was allowed to stand.
Exeter soon responded with their second try when an excellent run from the impressive Sam Hill saw him evade an attempted tackle from Tom Savage to send Whitten over.
Steenson converted before Twelvetrees fired over a penalty from inside his own half to give Gloucester a 17-14 interval lead.
After the restart, the hosts had wind advantage but continued to make basic errors to go further behind. Laidlaw fired wide with a penalty chance but another opportunity soon came his way and this time he made no mistake.
Worse was to follow for Exeter when the visitors scored their third try. Luke Cowan-Dickie was dispossessed by Morgan, who sent David Halaifonua away down the left touchline. The wing evaded Chudley's tackle to create the try for the supporting Morgan with Laidlaw's conversion giving his side a 27-14 lead with 20 minutes remaining.
Exeter threw on the cavalry with Henry Slade and Chudley both substituted before Whitten scored his second try with 10 minutes remaining.
Steenson missed the conversion but kicked a penalty before Welch's late effort saved the day for Exeter.