Gloucester keeps Champions Cup hopes alive

Date published: April 15 2016

Gloucester beat Exeter 16-9 in the rain at Kingsholm on Friday night to keep their dreams of Champions Cup qualification alive.

The educated boot of Greig Laidlaw was the difference for home side.

The opening 40 minutes saw neither side able to find a breakthrough. In rainy conditions the two teams defended fantastically well and played out the first score-less Premiership first-half since the 2009 semi-final between Harlequins and London Irish. 

The second half saw both sides score points as the rain eased and the pitch firmed up. 

Gareth Steenson and Grieg Laidlaw scored three penalties apiece during the second half. However, the difference was made five minutes in, the hosts' Ollie Thorley crossing the whitewash with the match finishing 16-9. 

The Chiefs would have secured a play-off place with a win but the losing Champions Cup quarter finalists will have to wait another week. 

The win arrests Gloucester's run of five successive defeats and keeps them mathematically within reach of the top six. 

Well drilled defences kept chances at a premium in the first half with the hosts coming closest to breaking the first-half deadlock. In the 21st minute, a quick throw from Tom Marshall set up a Gloucester attack in which they came close to the line. 

The move eventually breaking down when Billy Twelvetrees was found by a poor pass from Matt Kvesic allowing the Chiefs defence to gather itself. 

No real chances followed for either side and the first half drew to a close with neither side able to find a breakthrough. 

It took just two minutes of the second half for the Kingsholm crowd to finally see a score. Unfortunately for the majority of them, it was the visitors' Steenson who converted a penalty to establish a 0-3 lead. 

Remarkably, it took only until the 45th minute for the next score to come. This time it was to the delight of the home fans as, on his Premiership debut, 19-year-old winger Thorley spotted a gap from five metres out to score after being set-up well by a Tom Savage offload. 

Laidlaw added the extras to see the Cherry and Whites into a 7-3 lead. In the 48th minute the Chiefs were presented with a chance to cut the defecit, which they took. 

The Premiership's leading point scorer Steenson made in 7-6 with a kick from long distance. Gloucester captain Laidlaw kicked three more points, taking his side into a four-point lead with the clock ticking down. 

Exeter would not lie down easily though as Steenson kicked another penalty after 65 minutes to bring the away side within a point of the hosts. With 68 minutes on the clock Exeter went down to 14 men, Jack Nowell saw yellow for a dangerous tackle on Thorley. Laidlaw scored the resulting penalty to take the score to 13-9. 

Scotland captain Laidlaw added another penalty to make scores 16-9 after 72 minutes as the match finished 16-9, the Chiefs clinching a crucial bonus-point.


For Gloucester:
Try: Thorley
Con: Laidlaw
Pens: Laidlaw 3

For Exeter:
Pens: Steenson 3
Yellow Card: Nowell, 

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Rob Cook, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Trinder, 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Yann Thomas
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Nick Wood, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Ollie Thorley, 23 Jacob Rowan

Exeter: 15 Lachlan Turner, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Will Chudley, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Julian Salvi, 6 Don Armand, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mitch Lees, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Carl Rimmer, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Dave Ewers, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Michele Campagnaro, 23 James Short

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Robin Goodliffe, Roger Baileff
TMO: Trevor Fisher