Late Ben Morgan try stuns Exeter as Gloucester go third

Date published: February 16 2019

Number eight Ben Morgan went over late on as Gloucester moved ahead of Harlequins in the Premiership after a superb 24-17 triumph over Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm.

With Exeter shorn of several players because of international duty, it was an ideal opportunity for the Cherry and Whites to get their season back on track, and they eventually did the job, but the hosts were met by a stubborn Chiefs side, who touched down first via Nic White.

Johan Ackermann’s men proceeded to control the next half-hour, though, and were rewarded through Billy Twelvetrees’ penalty and Jason Woodward’s try.

The second-half was similarly tight on the scoreboard, even though Gloucester had the better of it, as they went into the latter stages level at 17-17, but Morgan scored late on to spark jubilation in the Shed.

Even without Henry Slade, Jack Nowell and Luke Cowan-Dickie, amongst others, the Devonians are a tough outfit to break down and were in fact first to strike. Rob Baxter’s charges are strong up front and are the most efficient side in the opposition 22 in the Premiership, with their line-out a potent weapon.

Baxter’s outfit duly set up camp five metres out and, although Gloucester halted their progress at the set-piece, they had committed too many men to the drive and White simply stepped his way across the whitewash.

That was as good as it got for the away team in the first-half, however, as the Cherry and Whites played with impressive intensity. Their form has been poor recently but, with Danny Cipriani fully fit and Ollie Thorley back from England duty, Ackermann’s side had plenty of threat.

Those two duly combined to allow the hosts to take the lead. Twelvetrees had got them on the board with a 12th minute penalty before Cipriani’s brilliant ‘up and under’ was taken by Thorley and the wing fed Woodward to score.

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The full-back had earlier dropped a pass when he was clear but this time, despite it being a more difficult opportunity, managed to collect and finish for a three-point buffer at the interval.

Gloucester had controlled much of the first-half but they found themselves level early in the second period after Joe Simmonds’ three-point attempt bisected the uprights. However, the Cherry and Whites maintained the pressure on their opponents and crossed for the second time via Willi Heinz.

It was what their play deserved, yet they were somehow pegged back in the final quarter. Matt Kvesic had enjoyed a fine return at his former employers, being a constant menace at the contact area, and the number eight scythed through a gaping hole before he found Tom O’Flaherty to go over.

To Gloucester’s credit, they could have ceded, but they merely regained their composure and produced a brilliant move which ended in Morgan touching down. That ultimately secured the win but they had to withstand one last surge from the Chiefs as Ackermann’s outfit held out.

In the Premiership’s other game on Friday, Wasps boosted their play-off hopes by securing a 29-22 victory over Bristol at Ashton Gate.

An impressive first-half set the tone as they went 19-3 ahead through Thomas Young, Tom Cruse and Nizaam Carr tries. Ian Madigan had kicked the West Countrymen’s only points in a disappointing performance before the break, but they improved in the second period.

Harry Randall and Will Rowlands traded efforts before Piers O’Conor and Charles Piutau got them back into the contest, but it wasn’t enough as Lima Sopoaga added a penalty to complete the win for the Midlanders.