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Gloucester down Chiefs in cup semi

Gloucester produced their best performance of the season to qualify for the Challenge Cup final, where they will face Edinburgh on May 1 at The Stoop.

Laurie Fisher's side totally dominated the game at Kingsholm and Exeter had no answer to their pace and power, with the final scoreline of 30-19 not reflecting the superiority of the home team.

Gloucester tries came from Bill Meakes, Tom Savage and Jonny May with Greig Laidlaw kicking two penalties and three conversions, and James Hook adding a long-distance penalty.

Henry Slade kicked four penalties for Exeter, with Gareth Steenson adding the conversion to Elvis Taione's late try.

Following last week's defeat at Harlequins, Gloucester switched Charlie Sharples to full-back with Henry Purdy coming in on the wing. There were two changes in the pack with flanker Matt Kvesic returning and Mario Galarza replacing Tom Palmer in the starting line-up.

Exeter made only change from their impressive win over Northampton with Ben White standing down, having taken a knock. Kai Horstmann was upgraded from the bench to replace him, with Tom Johnson listed as a replacement.

Gloucester started strongly by retaining possession for the first three minutes as they took the play from within their own 22 to their opponents' 22, but it was Exeter who nearly opened the scoring.

From a maul deep in the Chiefs' half, Thomas Waldrom burst away to combine with Phil Dollman as Exeter made 75 metres before Waldrom was hauled down by Billy Twelvetrees narrowly short of the try-line.

However, the first two scrums saw the visitors' pack under considerable pressure, which allowed Gloucester to have the better of the opening period. They suffered an early blow, though, when they lost number eight Gareth Evans as he left the field injured to be replaced by Ross Moriarty.

The first quarter was played at a frenetic pace as Exeter struggled to cope with the continuous onslaught of the home side. After 17 minutes, Gloucester gained their reward when Laidlaw put them ahead with a penalty.

Three minutes later, Exeter had their first chance for points and Slade made no mistake by firing over a long-range penalty.

Twelvetrees tried to put his side back in front and, although his rushed drop-goal attempt went badly astray, it was still all Gloucester in the opening half-hour. Laidlaw and Moriarty combined neatly to stretch the Exeter defence; it held firm but it was certainly all hands to the pump as the hosts maintained their momentum.

Jonny May made an electric burst and kicked ahead. Although the kick was far too strong, May appeared to be late-tackled by Jack Nowell, but Irish referee John Lacey deemed the challenge fair.

However, Gloucester were not to be denied and on the half-hour scored the first try. A neat kick through from Hook saw Meakes collect and score for Laidlaw to convert before Hook kicked a penalty from inside his own half.

With the last kick of half, Slade kicked his second goal to leave Exeter trailing 13-6 at the interval.

Early in the second half, Slade kicked a further penalty to bring the Chiefs back in contention but Gloucester were soon back threatening the visitors' line.

Richard Hibbard burst into the opposition 22 before Matt Kvesic and Hook brought them close to a second try, but Exeter managed to steal a vital turnover.

Laidlaw had a chance to extend the lead but his penalty attempt went narrowly wide before Slade succeeded with one for Exeter to leave them trailing by only one point at the end of the third quarter.

It was hard to believe Exeter were so close on the scoreboard, such was the home side's territorial dominance, but eventually Gloucester made it count.

The home side declined two kickable penalties in favour of a driving line-out and were rewarded when Savage crashed over for Laidlaw to convert before the scrum-half added a penalty.

Exeter did not lie down and scored their first try through replacement Taione, but Gloucester had the final say when May saw an opportunity to race over to seal victory.


From Belfast Telegraph