Gloucester took the spoils at Kingsholm, following a huge defensive shift late which saw Gloucester defeat Exeter in a tense affair. Tries from Jason Woodward, Willi Heinz and Ben Morgan were enough to see the hosts defeat the league leaders for the second time this season in four meetings. The win sends Gloucester to third, even if just temporarily.
Gloucester defeat Exeter in tense Premiership fixture
This result was built on an early kicking game that saw even the crowd begin to jeer in impatience, before it was Exeter who took the game’s first opportunity. Ruan Ackermann pinged for not releasing gave the Chiefs a five metre lineout, which the host defended superbly. Nic White was patrolling the ground around the maul and snuck over, evading all defenders around him. Simmonds duly converted.
Gloucester were quick to reply when a free kick allowed Ben Morgan to rampage into the Chiefs 22. Gloucester took the lead when a fabulous up and under from Danny Cipriani, was ‘angelically caught’ by Man of the Match Ollie Thorley who offloaded to full back Jason Woodward for the try. Twelvetrees adding the extras.
? MATCH ACTION
Josh Hohneck applauds good work on the deck in a pulsating first period.
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) February 15, 2019
With both sides looking to attack and keep the ball alive there were several big breaks, but too many ending with handling errors. A Nic White error just before half time where he walked it into touch before the time was up, allowed Gloucester one final chance at points. Hopeful, but a penalty sent Chiefs back down field.
Half time: Gloucester 10 Exeter Chiefs 7
Chiefs were the first on the board when following a powerful break by Tom O’Flaherty they lured Gloucester offside at the breakdown and Simmonds levelled the game.
Gloucester weren’t going to lie down and take it though. Franco Mostert leading the charge from a lineout and following a lovely sweeping play out wide Willi Heinz sneaked over for their second try. Twelvetrees converting.
Some slick interplay with Thorley saw the ball spread precisely at times, and Ben Morgan crossed for the try, that gave the home side a converted-try advantage. It was pressure on the Premiership leaders, and while Exeter went on one last charge – thanks to a neck roll penalty against the hosts – it was positive play.
They persisted, with a long set of phases carrying the ball inside the hosts half, yet Gloucester held on strongly, and forced a Chiefs knock on for a big win, in a tense affair.
Final Score: Gloucester 24 Exeter Chiefs 17
Speaking to the media after his sides win over league leaders Exeter Chiefs, Johan Ackermann relayed just how much work has gone into training to make it as physical, and intense as possible, during the break in competition.
He also spoke on the decision to make Billy Twelvetrees the kicker – a strategic move which didn’t take long for fans to realise. Seeing Twelvetrees kicking from the tee rather than fly half Danny Cipriani, Ackermann explained, ”Billy [Twelvetrees] was in extremely good form this season and last so between the two of them they’ve decided Billy will kick first and if he struggles Danny will kick but I leave it to the kickers.”
Johan Ackermann pleased with intensity following Exeter victory
Looking at their lack of game time in recent weeks Ackermann explained he was pleased with the intensity shown by his team saying, ”It was always a concern. As much as we enjoyed the break to freshen players up and give them a physical and mental break, we always knew we couldn’t do anything for matches other than playing.”
”We tried to train as hard as we could, and we were disrupted last week with the Bath game being played on the Monday.”
“The players showed a lot of effort and physicality and we knew that if we didn’t bring that and deal with their maul we’d be in for a long day.”
Gloucester shut down Chiefs in closing minutes
The last few moments for Cherry and Whites fans were nervous ones as they watched their team fend off a bombardment of attacks that would have seen a converted try tie the game. Johan Ackermann spoke of how he thought his side held their nerve. ”We were all nervous and worrying what lied ahead because we gave them that opportunity and we know that it’s their strength in closing out games with a strong maul and a big pack of forwards.
”It was coming closer and closer and eventually we forced the error so credit to the players that’s a massive effort and I’m proud of every individual for their effort and massively proud of the supporters who come out every week and support us.”
How did you react at this point?
— Gloucester Rugby (@gloucesterrugby) February 15, 2019
Kvesic knock-on and Hanson’s hit
Some Chiefs supporters may well feel aggrieved following two late decisions that went against them. The first was a hit from James Hanson that was deemed late by some and the second was the game ending knock-on that has been debated as to whether he touched it.
Looking at both incidents the head coach said, ”From my distance I said to David [Humphreys] ‘it’s a knock, it’s a knock’ so I felt it was a knock on, but I haven’t really looked at it.
“We’ll probably look at it on Monday if we get the closer views as the laptop in front of me was a wide view. Looking back, we saw James Hanson kept his line so we felt he didn’t change his line in front of the guy and the Exeter player just run into him.
“That’s just looking at it once, so I’ll have to look again but credit to the players for finishing it well.”
Missed chances need to be taken
Even as Gloucester defeat Exeter, and give themselves a real push in the third quarter of the Premiership, there were several other chances that Gloucester sent begging that could have come back to hurt them.
”We’re grateful of the win and we’re happy with how it came but I think we’d look back if we hadn’t had won we left a lot of opportunities out there. Those tries we scored were good, but Jason would have scored a try if he’d caught it, Franco Marais knocked it on near the line and Ollie Thorley was quite close in the corner along with a few penalties missed.
”You can see we haven’t played a lot of rugby in the last few weeks, so it wasn’t fluent and 14 turnovers conceded so there’s a lot for us to work on but it’s a good start after the break.
”When we lost against Sale and Leicester, we gave away eight points. We know we’re back in the race so this would have been big for us if we’d slipped it. It’s only one match, nothing has been achieved and the challenge is going to get bigger and bigger as the weeks progress to stay up there.”
Head coach Johan Ackermann will have plenty to be positive about. Whenever Gloucester defeat Exeter, it deserves to be celebrated. A few celebrations, but then back to work. Next up are Saracens – and that will take a much better effort, to walk away with those championship points.
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