Gloucester climb into the top three
MATCH REPORT: Gloucester reeled off a fourth successive Premiership victory and climbed to third in the table after beating Exeter 38-22 at Kingsholm.
It was another strong performance by George Skivington’s team, with Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit leading the way ahead of the year-end Tests.
Rees-Zammit pounced for Gloucester’s opening try as the home side triumphed in bonus-point fashion.
Fellow wing Santiago Carreras, hooker Santiago Socino, scrumhalf Charlie Chapman, flank Ruan Ackermann and captain Lewis Ludlow – Ludlow’s score was created by a stunning Rees-Zammit assist – followed him over Exeter’s line, with flyhalf Adam Hastings kicking four conversions.
Exeter gave as good as they got for large parts of an absorbing west country derby, claiming tries from scrum-half Jack Maunder, lock Ruben van Heerden and wing Josh Hodge, while Harvey Skinner added two conversions and a penalty. But it was the Chiefs’ third league defeat in six starts this season – and they could have few complaints on a night when Gloucester bossed the key areas at critical moments.
Gloucester showed four changes following last week’s narrow win against London Irish, including call-ups for prop Harry Elrington, lock Cam Jordan and number eight Ben Morgan. Australia international prop Scott Sio made his full Exeter debut, while flanker Lewis Pearson also started, but England training camp commitments ruled out Jack Nowell, Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds.
Skinner kicked Exeter into a second-minute lead, but his error just three minutes later led to an opening Gloucester try. The flyhalf’s kick on halfway was charged down by Socino, Chapman booted the ball on and Rees-Zammit gathered before finishing brilliantly. Hastings’ conversion made it 7-3, and Exeter was under sustained early pressure as the home side strived to continue their strong recent form.
England head coach Eddie Jones looked on as the scoring continued at a rapid pace, with Chiefs responding through a trademark-driven line-out that Maunder finished off and Skinner converted. Exeter was soon stretched again as Rees-Zammit surged clear in pursuit of his own kick, but he was denied just inches short of the line following brilliant defensive work by Chiefs wing Olly Woodburn.
It was only a temporary reprieve, though, as possession was quickly moved wide to allow Carreras an unopposed run-in.
Gloucester needed to consolidate their position after going back in front, yet they were undone within three minutes after Exeter’s forwards piled on pressure and Van Heerden crossed from close range. Skinner’s conversion opened up a five-point advantage, yet the game’s rollercoaster nature continued as the lead changed hands for a fifth time in 34 minutes when Socino rounded off a driving maul and Hastings converted.
It gave Gloucester a 19-17 interval advantage following an intense opening 40 minutes that delivered five tries. Gloucester extended their lead just two minutes into the second period after Carreras made a blistering outside break, before finding Chapman through an exquisite inside pass, with Hastings converting.
Exeter – their cause not helped by Skinner’s first-half departure through injury – struggled to cope with the Gloucester intensity in the third quarter and the hosts were rewarded with a fifth try, Ackermann the beneficiary this time of more magnificent work by the home pack.
Gloucester substitute Albert Tuisue was yellow-carded 16 minutes from time as Hodge’s try gave Exeter a glimmer of hope, but Exeter centre Ian Whitten also saw yellow following head-on-head contact with Chris Harris. Gloucester comfortably closed out the contest with Ludlow adding try number six and a sold-out Kingsholm roared its approval as their resurgence under Skivington continued.
Tries: Rees-Zammit, Carreras, Socino, Chapman, Ackermann, Ludlow
Cons: Hastings 4
Tries: Maunder, Van Heerden, Hodge
Cons: Skinner 2
Gloucester: 15 Lloyd Evans, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Giorgi Kveseladze, 11 Santi Carreras, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Charlie Chapman, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 6 Ruan Ackermann, 5 Cam Jordan, 4 Freddie Clarke, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Santiago Socino, 1 Harry Elrington
Replacements: 16 Henry Walker, 17 Ciaran Knight, 18 Kirill Gotovtsev, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Albert Tuisue, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Jack Reeves, 23 Tom Seabrook
Exeter: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Josh Hodge, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Jack Maunder, 8 Jacques Vermeulen, 7 Lewis Pearson, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (c), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Christ Tshiunza, 21 Sam Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Dan John
Referee: Adam Leal
Assistant referees: Dan Jones, John Meredith
TMO: Dean Richards