May books Gloucester’s final spot

Date published: April 18 2015

Gloucester booked their place in the Challenge Cup Final after defeating Premiership rivals Exeter Chiefs 30-19 at Kingsholm.

Tries from Bill Meakes, Tom Savage and Jonny May helped the Cherry and Whites on their way back to a European final for the first time since 2006.

Exeter have had plenty of outstanding moments this season but were denied a first ever crack at a European title on Saturday, following up their recent LV= Cup heartache.

Their attention, unlike Gloucester's, will turn to the Premiership playoffs given their current fourth-placed position.

What was supposed to be a bold new season for Gloucester hasn't quite gone to plan, with inconsistency undoing their best efforts, but the chance to add a trophy to the cabinet and continue to build that winning culture will delight David Humphreys and Laurie Fisher.

Gloucester withstood an early surge of pressure with the Chiefs camped on their try line, with the Gloucester scrum scoring some early marks by winning a scrum against the head.

The home side looked composed with the ball in hand, marshalled well by Greig Laidlaw who opened their account with a penalty after 17 minutes.

Young prospect Henry Slade, the breakthrough star in the Premiership this year and a certain England international of the future, got on the board with a long-range penalty to tie things up.

Bill Meakes then struck with the game's first try, winning the race to a grubber kick behind the Exeter defence with the score awarded after consulation with the TMO.

Exeter's big ball carriers in Dave Ewers and Thomas Waldrom were always going to cause Gloucester problems but it was the hosts who scored next, James Hook adding a long-range penalty before Slade responded to make it 13-6 at half-time.

More good work from Ewers enabled Slade to add a third penalty as Exeter closed in on the lead, a fourth strike meaning Gloucester were only ahead by a single point.

The home fans in the Shed did their best to lift Gloucester's tempo and it worked when their rolling maul crashed over the line, Tom Savage emerging from the bottom of the pile for a try on his birthday as he went on to be named Man of the Match.

Three more points from Laidlaw gave Gloucester a big nine-point lead but Exeter never gave up, battling back with a try from Elvis Taione to set up a nervous finish.

Jonny May though put paid to that, rushing up to make an interception and none of the Chiefs could catch him as Gloucester booked their trip to London to go for the title.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Meakes, Savage, May
Con: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Laidlaw 2, Hook

For Exeter:

Try: Taione

Con: Steenson

Pens: Slade 4 

Gloucester: 15 Charlie Sharples; 14 Jonny May, 13 Bill Meakes, 12 Billy Twelvetrees (c), 11 Henry Purdy; 10 James Hook, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Sione Kalafamoni, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Nick Wood.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawiduik, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Elliot Stooke, 20 Ross Moriarty, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Billy Burns, 23 Brendan Macken

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman; 14 Ian Whitten, 13 Jack Nowell, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Matt Jess; 10 Henry Slade, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Tom Waldrom, 7 Kai Horstmann, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Mitch Lees, 4 Dean Mumm (c), 3 Tom Francis, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Ben Moon.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Alex Brown, 19 Sam Skinner, 20 Tom Johnson, 21 Dave Lewis, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Tom James

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Jerome Garces (France), Pascal Gauzere (France)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)