Gloucester Rugby showed just how good they could be in their Aviva Premiership Rugby win over Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm on Friday night, according to director of rugby David Humphreys.
The Cherry and Whites went into the game on the back of four successive defeats, but a debut try from winger Ollie Thorley and 11 points from skipper Greig Laidlaw was enough to give them a 16-9 win over the Chiefs.
Humphreys’ side let a lead slip against Leicester Tigers last time out and he admitted he was relieved to get over the line against Exeter.
“First and foremost I am delighted for the supporters, from the depths of despair at the final whistle last time against Leicester,” he said.
“I have seen the emotion and the wonderful atmosphere just talking to some of the players, it is as good as it has been all season.
“That is what makes playing here so special, the crowd are so passionate and take defeats incredibly personally.”
The win moves Gloucester to within five points of the top six and a place in next season’s Champions Cup.
Should Harlequins win the Challenge Cup and finish in the top six, then even a seventh-place finish would be enough for a Champions Cup spot, but Humphreys said his side need to show greater consistency.
He added: “Every supporter talks about an 80-minute performance and we haven’t had that consistently enough to challenge at the top of the league yet.
“The challenge laid down to the players is that this club has to start from somewhere and we talked about Leicester being a real low point. You need players who are going to stand up and when the pressure is on are willing to put their hand up.
“I thought tonight, right across the team, including everyone who came on, put their hand up and we saw the crowd respond.”
The defeat for Exeter dents their hopes of a second-place finish in the table and securing a home semi-final – they still have to play third-place Wasps though and hold their destiny in their own hands.
Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter blamed his side’s discipline for the loss and said they need to grow up in order to be considered a top side.
“It was pretty simple at the end, it came down to discipline,” he said.
“It was a one-point game and I think we gave away three consecutive penalties under relatively little pressure out wide.
“We knew it was going to be a pretty tight and attritional affair when you turn up and see the conditions, there wasn’t going to be much free-flowing rugby out there and that is where we have let it slip.
“We have to grow up a little bit. If we want to be in the top four, in big competitions then at this time of year you go from quarter-finals to semi-finals and big games to big games, you have to be and want to be involved in them.
“You have to physically and emotionally recharge your batteries pretty quickly but I actually said to the lads that I think we did that part of it pretty well.
“I don’t think there was a lack of energy or endeavour there but we have slipped up discipline-wise more than we should have done.”
Gloucester: Marshall; Cook, Trinder, Twelvetrees, Thorley; Hook, Laidlaw; Thomas (Wood, 57), Hibbard (Dawidiuk, 62), Afoa (Doran-Jones, 56), Savage, Thrush, Moriarty, Kvesic, Morgan.
Replacements: Stooke, Rowan, Bradley, Creed, Heinz.
Exeter: Turner (Short HT); Nowell, Slade, Whitten (Campagnaro, 69), Woodburn; Steenson, Chudley; Moon (Hepburn, 69), Cowan-Dickie (Yeandle, 57), Williams, Lees, Parling (Welch, 33), Armand, Salvi, Waldrom (Ewers, 62).
Replacements: Rimmer, Lewis.
Pens: Laidlaw 3
Pens: Steenson 3
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keyes