Damien Welch’s last-gasp try snatched a dramatic draw for Exeter Chiefs in an enthralling derby with Gloucester Rugby at Sandy Park.
Chiefs mauled their way over in the left-hand corner to tie the scores at 27-27 and Gareth Steenson failed to add the tricky conversion with the final kick of the match to ensure a share of the spoils.
Following a disappointing 15-6 defeat at the hands of Bath Rugby last week, Gloucester produced the perfect response with a hard-working, battling performance and will consider themselves unlucky not to have left with a second Aviva Premiership Rugby victory of the campaign.
They held a 17-14 lead at the break thanks largely to tries from the in-form Matt Scott and Charlie Sharples as Thomas Waldrom and Ian Whitten crossed for the hosts.
That advantage was extended after the interval as Ben Morgan plunged over but Whitten’s second score and a Steenson penalty set up a grandstand finish, before Welch broke Cherry and White hearts.
After a cagey opening to the match, Gloucester were the catalyst for the game sparking into life on 11 minutes.
A neat line-out move helped open up the defence and neat hands from Mark Atkinson released Scott to go over underneath the posts for his fourth try of the campaign.
Greig Laidlaw duly slotted the extras but after a spell of pressure in the visiting 22, Chiefs got themselves back level as Waldrom barrelled over from five metres out and Steenson added the conversion.
The score was only 7-7 for a matter of moments however as, following Exeter confusion at the restart, Sharples won a high ball and marked his 200th competitive appearance for Gloucester in perfect fashion by cantering in for the score, Laidlaw again metronomic from the tee.
But on 31 minutes, the impressive Sam Hill – whose constant tackle-breaking had proved a thorn in the Cherry and Whites’ side – demonstrated his considerable pace to dart through the defence and offload to Whitten to finish.
Steenson’s simple conversion levelled the scores at 14-14 but a scrum penalty on halfway gave Billy Twelvetrees the opportunity to send Gloucester into the interval ahead and he slotted the long-range three-pointer to do just that.
A fast start to the second half was pivotal for Exeter but instead they drifted further behind as Laidlaw missed one penalty attempt but nailed a second.
Sensing an opportunity to hammer home their advantage, the Cherry and Whites continued to press and got their reward with a 58th-minute try through Morgan.
They stripped the ball on halfway and broke down the left before feeding the England No.8 to dive over, with Laidlaw’s successful conversion giving them a 13-point lead.
Chiefs’ defence then held firm as Gloucester looked to kill the game off and, after winning a scrum turnover in their own 22, they scored a few minutes later as Lachlan Turner offloaded out of the tackle to give Whitten the simplest of finishes.
Steenson was off-target with the left-wing conversion but when the visitors were penalised with nine minutes remaining, the long-serving Exeter fly-half bisected the posts with the three-pointer to narrow the deficit to 27-22.
The veteran then booted a penalty deep into Gloucester territory with a minute remaining and from the resulting line-out, Exeter produced an inexorable driving maul in the left-hand corner of which Welch was the beneficiary.
Steenson had a chance to win it for the hosts but his conversion dropped short to ensure Gloucester earned a second Aviva Premiership Rugby draw of the season.