Man of the match Matt Kvesic believes Gloucester Rugby’s rebuilding project is firmly on course after the Cherry & Whites emerged as victors from a thrilling second half against Exeter Chiefs.
The two West Country rivals have had contrasting fortunes so far this season, with the Chiefs taking Aviva Premiership Rugby by storm after a series of impressive displays.
But Gloucester condemned them to a third league defeat on the bounce as Ben Morgan scored what was ultimately the winning try – thanks to Greig Laidlaw's conversion – in the second half at Sandy Park.
That however does not begin to tell half the story, with Gareth Steenson missing what could have been the match-winning conversion after a 70th-minute Thomas Waldrom try.
There were also three tries in three second-half minutes – Matt Jess and Jack Nowell for Exeter, and Tom Savage responding for the visitors – after a tentative first half that saw just two Laidlaw penalties.
New management duo David Humphreys and Laurie Fisher have ripped up the script at Kingsholm and after their fifth Aviva Premiership Rugby win of the season, flanker Kvesic admits reaching their very best may have to wait until next year.
“It was excellent, winning makes a big difference but we’re still in this rebuilding phase,” said Kvesic, who impressed with his relentless work at the breakdown.
“We’ve only been together this half of the season as we didn’t really have a pre-season together. This year is a rebuilding one for us, and hopefully we can build some momentum and take it into the next.
“We showed we can chuck the ball around a little more and put together few more passes, which broke down Exeter who are a good defensive unit – so we’re pleased about that.
“First half was excellent, they’ve got some big ball carriers who were hammering our line. We fronted up defensively very well and it was a top performance."
The result leaves the Chiefs vulnerable to relinquishing their fourth spot, as Leicester Tigers, Wasps and Sale Sharks could all leapfrog them on Sunday.
And head coach Rob Baxter says Exeter are still finding the right amount of consistency in order to truly be considered an Aviva Premiership Rugby heavyweight.
“I’ve said to the lads that if you want to play at the end of the league where the big boys play, you have to come in and play like a big boy because teams will come after you,” he said.
“I don’t think we did that at times, but at other times we did and showed great endeavour, and at times we let ourselves down.
“When we did wrestle the momentum of the game back with two quick-fire tries the first thing we did was give it straight back to Gloucester with some very naïve exit play. That’s frustrating for me because it’s been a strength of our game.
“I know why it’s happened, it’s because we had a focus on how we wanted to attack this week – we thought we were a bit rusty at Bath when the opportunities arose so we spent a lot of time on it this week.”
Exeter Chiefs: Dollman (McGuigan 79); Nowell, Slade, Hill (Whitten 52), Jess; Steenson, Chudley (Thomas 55); Moon (Rimmer 56), Yeandle (Cowan-Dickie 56), Low (Francis 53); Mumm, Lees (Sexton 45); Ewers, White, Waldrom.
Replacements not used: Simmonds
Gloucester Rugby: Sharples; Halaifonua, Atkinson, Twelvetrees, May; Hook, Laidlaw; Wood, Dawidiuk (Lutui 53), Afoa (Knight 74); Savage, Palmer; Kalamafoni (Evans 53); Kvesic, Morgan.
Replacements not used: Thomas, Stooke, Robson, Burns, Meakes
Exeter Chiefs 25 Gloucester Rugby 26
Exeter Chiefs 25 Gloucester Rugby 26
Tries: Nowell, Jess, Waldrom
Conversions: Steenson 2
Penalties: Steenson 2
Tries: Savage, Morgan
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 3
Referee: Andrew Small
Get 20 per cent off a limited number of tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final 2015. Visit http://www.tickethour.co.uk/premierrugby/ to take advantage of this great offer.