Premiership rugby: Gloucester out of ‘depths of despair’ with Exeter upset

Gloucester spirits picked up on Friday night as they defeated title contenders Exeter Chiefs 16-9 in the Premiership to end a stinging string of defeats.

Ollie Thorley of Gloucester breaks clear to score the first try against Exeter Chiefs in his team's Premiership win on Friday night. David Rogers / Getty Images / April 15, 2016
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Gloucester rugby director David Humphreys hailed a stunning turnaround in form by his team after they beat Premiership title contenders Exeter Chiefs 16-9 at Kingsholm.

Just six days after suffering a European Challenge Cup quarter-final home defeat against PRO12 strugglers Newport Gwent Dragons, Gloucester halted a run of four successive Premiership losses by silencing the Chiefs.

“The players turned up tonight and produced an outstanding performance,” Humphreys said. “It was almost from the depths of despair last weekend to today.

“It (inconsistency) is not necessarily a conundrum that is this year or last year, it is a conundrum that has been here for many years.

“Two weeks ago, we should have won at Welford Road against Leicester; this week, we beat the second-placed team in the league; last week, we played a team that had lost seven or eight games in a row – and that is no disrespect to the Dragons – and we just didn’t turn up.

“The challenge for us as a management team is to go away and find why is that, and then once we find the why, how do we fix it? That’s the biggest challenge.

“We know how good this team can be. We know it is not a major rugby issue, but there is something that was missing against Worcester, London Irish and the Dragons. I would love to have an answer.”

England Under-20 international Ollie Thorley – a late inclusion in the Gloucester side for his Premiership debut – scored the game’s solitary try as his team prevailed, while Scotland international scrum-half Greig Laidlaw kicked three penalties and a conversion.

Exeter fly-half Gareth Steenson kicked three penalties for the Chiefs, who also saw their England wing Jack Nowell sin-binned for a dangerous tip tackle.

Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys consulted the television match official before reaching for a yellow card, when many in a crowd of just over 13,000 at Kingsholm expected red. Whether the match citing commissioner now gets involved remains to be seen.

Victory for Exeter would have been enough to guarantee play-off rugby next month and, while they should still comfortably secure a top four finish, their first opportunity of achieving that disappeared following last Saturday’s dramatic European Champions Cup quarter-final loss against Wasps.

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter said: “We got ourselves emotionally and physically into a pretty good place after last week.

“We did pretty well for the whole of the game, but we were massively undone by a period of ill-discipline under relatively little pressure, which is the thing that has annoyed me.

“In a game like today, it was almost certainly going to come down to penalty shots at goal. Gloucester got them and we didn’t.

“It is difficult to break it down straight after the game, but when we needed to show that bit more discipline and composure we didn’t. Gloucester won two or three battles tonight that were important.

“Sometimes games away from home in those kind of (wet) conditions, they do come down to one or two things. Discipline was the area that disappointed me most, and when you give up penalties it just kills you on a night like this. With a goalkicker like Greig Laidlaw, you are going to suffer.

“If we want to be a top four side and a good team in Europe, then you go from a quarter-final to a crunch Premiership game, then another crunch Premiership game, then a semi-final. That’s how they roll, and you have got to be able to deal with that.

“You can’t really control the odd handling error in a lot of ways, but when you go penalty, penalty, penalty, that’s something you should be able to control, and we didn’t.”

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