- EXETER CHIEFS 13 - 14 GLOUCESTER
Gloucester leap-frogged over Exeter to move up to eighth in the Aviva Premiership standings as they claimed a 14-13 win at Sandy Park, but the Chiefs left with a valuable losing bonus point.
The opening 40 minutes had few memorable moments as Exeter went in at half time 8-6 ahead after a try from wing Matt Jess and a Henry Slade penalty, with Gloucester's reply being two Rob Cook penalties.
Gloucester took an early grip to the second half with Cook's third penalty before he gave the final pass for Charlie Sharples to cross out wide. The Chiefs came back in the final minutes against 13 men, through a Don Armand try, but could not convert it to claim victory.
With just four more games to go in the regular season, both clubs had their sights on a late push towards the top six and possible inclusion in the top level of European rugby next season - whatever format is finally decided.
Gloucester looked to have scored early on with a try in the corner from full back Cook, but referee Matt Carley consulted television match official Geoff Warren who confirmed there had been a knock-on and Exeter were able to clear their line from the resulting scrum.
But it was the home side who got the first points on the board when Jimmy Cowan was penalised for not following away to the tackle and fly-half Slade stepped-up to slot the 15 metre kick from in front of the posts.
Cook levelled the scores just before the mid-point of the half from outside on the left after Exeter dropped their front row. The Chiefs scrum came under pressure eight minutes before the break and Cook's second penalty put Gloucester ahead.
Exeter responded immediately with Jess struggling off a couple of tackles to squeeze over the line in the corner for his first try of the season, but Slade was unable to add the touchline conversion to leave the Chiefs 8-6 ahead at the break.
Gloucester regained the lead five minutes after the restart through Cook's third penalty, which was quickly followed-up with a try from an overlap as Mike Tindall and Cook linked-up to put wing Sharples through in the corner.
Cook was off target with the conversion and a penalty attempt in the final quarter in a frustrating afternoon for the Chiefs.
Exeter kept pressing with a couple of overlaps but replacement fly-half Gareth Steenson stopped a metre short of the line, allowing the visitors to clear their lines and mount an attack of their own.
It was a tense final 10 minutes as Exeter looked for a second try to take the game as Gloucester gave away unnecessary penalties. Steenson took a tap at the first before the replacement failed to find touch with the second.
Gloucester were forced to play the final minutes with replacement prop Sila Puafisi and flanker Sione Kalamafoni in the sin-bin for silly infringements. Cook was then sacrificed when Nick wood had to return to the action.
Exeter, with 15 men on the pitch against 13-man Gloucester drove over the line with replacement Don Armand claiming the touchdown, but Steenson's conversion attempt strayed wide of the far upright to leave the Cherry and Whites with victory.
– Rob Baxter, Head Coach, Exeter Chiefs
It was great endeavour from the guys at the end but I am a little perplexed about how you can have a driving maul flying over the line that collapses and it is a yellow card but not a penalty try, especially after a couple of penalties that led up to it.
It was tough for Gareth because he hadn't had any shots at goal at that point and there was a very tough wind. Gareth missing a kick is not a big issue for me - it's a bit more how we needed a conversion in the last seconds to win the game.
I am not going to hide my disappointment because I don't think that we played particularly well. I said to the guys afterwards that if you want to win Premiership games you have to go out there and play really well.
You have to make it about yourselves and you have to take all your opportunities with two hands. I thought at the start we were nervy because of the amount of times we gave poor passes or lacked crispness or dropped the ball or whatever.
But as it wore on you can't really say it is about nerves because in the final period we kind of dominated possession and territory without really ramming home what we needed to.
We have a break now and what we have to do now is re-ignite some of the intensity that we were playing with just a few weeks ago. This is just another of those one-point score games where we have been our own worse enemies.
– Nigel Davies, director of rugby, gloucester
That was our third Premiership on the trot - that is pretty significant, so I was pleased about that. We had really targeted this one as a key game in our season.
It can almost turn round our season a little bit. Exeter are having a great season and rightly so get a lot of plaudits, but right now we sit above them in the league.
We have had a tough season. We've been nowhere near where we would have liked to have been.
But we are still battling and to get three wins on the bounce - and come up from where we have been - is pretty significant and the boys should take a lot of credit for that.
Our focus now is to win as many games as we can and we have made a good fist of it so far.
Overall I thought we were the better team and we deserved that win and I was pleased with the effort and the commitment from my players.
We probably spurned a couple of chances in the game which made it difficult for us to defend at the end.
But the energy and enthusiasm that the guys showed at the death was a credit to them. We have been preparing for this game because it was a huge game, when you look at the table, and we realised that Exeter had had a couple of tough games.