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Match Reaction: Exeter Chiefs 28 Gloucester Rugby 27

Gloucester Rugby defence coach John Muggleton admits it was difficult to stomach their LV= Cup defeat at Exeter Chiefs after the Cherry & Whites were denied victory by the width of a post.

The visitors enjoyed much of the possession and territory before the break but with just a Gareth Evans try to show for it, Adam Hughes intercepted deep in his own half and raced away to peg them back.

Bill Meakes drew first blood after half-time for the visitors but they still couldn’t shake off a persistent Chiefs side, who hit back through Fetu’u Vainikolo.

Yann Thomas bundled over to hand Gloucester the advantage once more but Exeter’s pack were awarded a late penalty try before Thomas’ last-gasp penalty bounced clear off the post.

And Muggleton conceded that despite the fine margins, a disciplined second-half showing would not have left them in that precarious position.

“It was very difficult to stomach that defeat because we played enough footie and made enough breaks to win the game,” he said.

“But the reality of the situation is that we didn't. We have to learn from that, learn to finish them off.

“We had a plan to run the ball and get round the corner to make them fold because we didn't think they were too good there. But it all comes down to their interception try on half-time.

“The penalty count in the second half was completely different than that in the first half and for some of the same things. We needed to manage our field position and not have back-to-back penalties.”

Meanwhile, victory saw Exeter Chiefs get their title defence off to a winning start and skills coach Ricky Pellow heaped praise on his side’s defensive work rate on a blustery day at Sandy Park.

He said: “The guys defended really well and got us in a strong position to finish it off. We weren't on our game in the first half at the set piece so to finish it off that way was really pleasing.

“It was really pleasing to get the win with the penalty try – but we are not going to run away from the fact that the first half wasn't where we want to be.

“Individually and collectively we were just off it and to be fair to Gloucester they came at us and outworked us.

“We reset at half-time, talked about what was going to get us back in the game and what we needed to do.

“In the second half the guys did it – not for the whole second half but in patches – and when you are within six points going into the final stages, we knew that we could push through with it.”
 
Exeter Chiefs: Arnott, Vainikolo, Bodilly, Hughes, James, Sweeney, Lewis (Hendrickson 69); Sturgess (Rimmer 48), Cowan-Dickie, Brown (Stanley 48); Mumm (Carrick-Smith 66), Sexton, Scaysbrook, Simmonds (Townsend 69), Skinner
Replacements: Bateman, Conlon, May
 
Gloucester Rugby: McColl, Isaacs, Meakes, Atkinson, Monahan, A Thomas, Robson; Y Thomas, Dawidiuk (Lutui 57), Knight (Puafisi 57); Stooke, Hudson, Moriarty, D Thomas, Evans (Batley 56 (Hicks 58))
Replacements: Gibbons, Braley, Burns, Purdy
 
Scorers
Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Hughes, Vainikolo, Penalty
Conversions: Sweeney 2
Penalties: Sweeney 3
 
Gloucester Rugby
Tries: Evans, Meakesm Y Thomas
Conversions: A Thomas 3
Penalties: A Thomas 2
 
Referee: Simon Harding
 
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton on Sunday 22 March. Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets.

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