Exeter snatch last gasp victory
A last minute penalty try converted by fly-half Ceri Sweeney saw LV= Cup holders Exeter snatch a 28-27 victory over West Country rivals Gloucester at Sandy Park in a match that was littered with penalties.
Australia international Dean Mumm, the Exeter captain, and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie made their first starts of the season after long-term injuries while the Chiefs gave a debut to lock Jerry Sexton, younger brother of Johnny, who is on trial until the end of the month.
The visitors included number eight Gareth Evans for his first senior appearance since being sidelined since April with a knee injury while Steve McColl, Mark Atkinson, Tom Isaacs, Aled Thomas and Dan Thomas made their first competitive starts for the Cherry and Whites.
Gloucester took the lead on seven minutes when, after a break by centres Mark Atkinson and Billy Meakes, they were awarded a penalty for not releasing at the tackle and fly-half Aled Thomas slotted the points.
Exeter hit back immediately through a 30-metre penalty from Wales international fly-half Sweeney with a strong wind at his back. But it was Gloucester who played open running rugby to test the Chiefs' defence.
Midway through the half Thomas was off target with his second penalty attempt and with seven minutes remaining and having conceded nine penalties, Chiefs' prop Brett Sturgess was sent to the sin-bin by referee Simon Harding.
Gloucester took advantage of the extra man to power their way to the line with Evans crossing for the opening try, converted by Thomas, but there was still time for the Chiefs to pull something out of the back.
With Gloucester again on the attack scrum-half Dan Robson tried to feed ball from the lineout but his pass was intercepted by centre Adam Hughes who raced 80 metres to score by the posts. Sweeney' conversion levelled the scores at 10-10.
Two minutes after the restart Sweeney landed his second penalty but the Chiefs lead was shortlived as Meakes pounced on a loose ball, after Thomas grabbed scrum-half Dave Lewis, to touchdown.
Thomas converted from outwide on the left before adding a second penalty from the other side but Exeter's problems in the pack continued despite changing both props earlier in the second half.
The Chiefs finally came into the game, with 30 minutes remaining and Cowan-Dickie was held-up over the line. Then after a quick tap penalty the ball was worked wide for wing Fetu'u Vainikolo to power over the line.
But Gloucester showed that they were still in the game with loosehead prop Yann Thomas crossing the whitewash from close range with Thomas converting but Sweeney's third penalty reduced the Exeter arrears to six points.
With less than three minutes remaining Exeter were causing Gloucester problems in the scrum and at the third reset referee Harding awarded the Chiefs a penalty try. Sweeney's conversion gave Exeter victory.
Thomas had an opportunity to snatch the game but his penalty attempt from just inside the Chiefs half, close to the left touchline, hit the far upright and save the Chiefs' blushes.