Exeter booked their place in the Gallagher Premiership play-offs with three games to spare after beating Gloucester 35-22 at Sandy Park. The runaway league leaders posted a seventh successive Premiership win and look unstoppable as they target a fifth Twickenham final appearance on the bounce.
A Gloucester team showing 15 changes battled hard but ultimately could not contain their opponents, with Exeter scoring tries through hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, number eight Sam Simmonds, lock Jonny Hill, wing Ian Whitten and scrum-half Jack Maunder.
Captain Joe Simmonds kicked five conversions, and the only downbeat note for Exeter was seeing their Scotland international full-back Stuart Hogg limp off in the 55th minute. Hogg pulled up after an Exeter attack, with his early departure coming 10 days before Chiefs’ Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against Northampton.
Gloucester’s best moments came early in the game, and they briefly led by a point after former England wing Matt Banahan’s try and a Billy Twelvetrees penalty, while Banahan added a second touchdown and flanker Josh Gray also crossed, with Twelvetrees landing two conversions.
Exeter were guilty of unforced errors at times, especially in the first half, yet it proved to be another case of job done, and a 15th Premiership victory from 19 starts means they march on. Gloucester were forced into late two switches following failed fitness tests for wing Charlie Sharples and prop Jamal Ford-Robinson. Alex Morgan and Logovi’i Mulipola were their respective replacements.
Here you go West Standers. Almost like you are here. pic.twitter.com/NNt2pEbPiD
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) September 9, 2020
Exeter, unbeaten at home in the Premiership since January, were off and running inside four minutes when Cowan-Dickie powered his way over Gloucester’s line from close range. Simmonds converted, but Gloucester responded impressively and scored from their opening attack three minutes later thanks to a powerful finish from Banahan.
The visitors continued to impress, putting Exeter under pressure inside their own 22 and gaining a penalty that Twelvetrees kicked for an 8-7 lead. Gloucester had rattled their opponents, and some of Chiefs’ back play misfired badly, but Exeter delivered a second try midway through the second quarter, driving relentlessly from a lineout before Sam Simmonds touched down.
His brother again added the extras, yet it was largely unconvincing from Exeter with the countdown firmly underway to their European showdown with Saints on Sunday week. They began to control territory, though, and Hill pounced for Exeter’s third touchdown on the stroke of half-time.
Simmonds’ conversion secured a 13-point interval advantage, while Gloucester had lock Charlie Beckett sin-binned as referee Christophe Ridley ran out of patience with the visitors’ repeated technical offending. It took Exeter 60 seconds of the second period to secure a bonus point, and it came following a scintillating break by Hogg.
He broke clear from deep inside his own half, and although Gloucester defenders managed to haul him down, they ran out of numbers when Exeter moved possession wide, allowing Whitten to sprint over. Simmonds’ fourth successful conversion meant Gloucester were 20 points adrift, and Exeter’s fifth try quickly followed, with Maunder the latest beneficiary of impressive approach work.
Banahan’s second score reflected a resilient effort by the visitors, and they continued taking it to Exeter despite being well adrift on the scoreboard. And Gloucester had the final say when Gray won the race to the line after he kicked into space, and Twelvetrees converted.
Is there any stopping @ExeterChiefs right now? ?
A good fight from a young @gloucesterrugby side but Rob Baxter's men had too much and picked up another impressive win ?
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) September 9, 2020
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