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Exeter Chiefs 13 Gloucester Rugby 14

29 Mar 2014
Exeter Chiefs 13 Gloucester Rugby 14

In a dramatic finale Gareth Steenson sent a match-winning conversion attempt wide of the posts as Exeter Chiefs lost by a point to 13-man Gloucester Rugby.

In a game of few chances Exeter had led at the break following Matt Jess’ first-half try, only for Charlie Sharples to cross shortly after the interval for the visitors.

Three Rob Cook penalties kept Gloucester’s noses in front until the final minutes when Sila Puafisi and Sione Kalamafoni were sin-binned, giving Don Armand space to cross in the final minute.

But Steenson, on as a replacement for Henry Slade, missed with the extras to hand Gloucester a 14-13 win, their first on the road since victory over London Irish on December 29.

After only two minutes Gloucester were celebrating after an Exeter move broke down in midfield and the visitors capitalised, moving the ball through the hands with full-back Cook diving over the line.

But their joy was cut short when the try was referred up to the TMO who ruled the score out for a forward pass earlier in the move.

Exeter took full advantage of the reprieve, moving slowly upfield and winning a penalty at the breakdown to give fly-half Slade a simple kick at the posts, which he converted to make it 3-0.

It stayed that way until 17 minutes, with neither side able to threaten the opposing try line, until Gloucester managed to squeeze a penalty at the scrum.

Cook lined up the posts from 28 metres out and bisected the uprights to level the scores with nearly a quarter of the game played.

A blustery wind seemed to be effecting both sides’ ability to pass the ball with a series of plays ending with the ball going to ground, but it didn’t stop Cook collecting his second three-pointer of the day on the half hour after Exeter coughed up a penalty at the scrum.

Five minutes before the interval, having picked up an injury earlier in the half, Exeter lost prop Jack Yeandle with Luke Cowan-Dickie coming on to replace him.

And a minute later Exeter retook the lead, Dave Ewers punching a hole in the middle of the Gloucester defence before Luke Arscott floated a pass out to winger Jess in space who beat the defence to cross out wide. Slade’s conversion missed the target and it remained 8-6 as the sides trotted off at the interval.

Gloucester started the second period the brighter of the two sides, another scrum penalty giving Cook the chance to make it 9-8 off the kicking tee, which he did with aplomb.

Freddie Burns replaced fly-half Ryan Mills for Gloucester five minutes into the half, and they continued to attack with Jonny May kicking one ball through only for it narrowly run out of play.

And then the Cherry & Whites scored their first try of the afternoon, Cook beating his marker to set up Sharples for an easy run in. Cook couldn’t find the posts with the extras however, and it remained 14-8 to the visitors.

There was little tryline action of note thereafter until the 60th minute, when Exeter were pinged by referee Matthew Carley for holding on in the tackle but Cook sent his penalty wide of the uprights.

Exeter brought on Steenson for Slade in a bid to find the breakthrough and the home side pressed forward.

With 12 minutes to play Steenson and Sam Hill looked to have made the breakthrough only for desperate Gloucester defending to keep them out, the visitors eventually turning the ball over under their own posts.

With two minutes left on the clock Exeter had Gloucester penned in their own 22 and Puafisi saw yellow, paying the price for a number of Cherry & Whites infringements.

Steenson kicked to touch to keep the pressure on the visitors, and with just seconds left Kalamafoni joined Puafisi in the sin bin after Exeter were illegally held up on the try line.

With the final play of the game Exeter pushed for a final time and Armand crossed from close range.

The home side looked to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat but Steenson failed his audition as hero for the day sending his conversion, which would have won the game, wide of the posts, denying Exeter a first-ever Aviva Premiership double over Gloucester.

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