Ollie Thorley’s debut try was enough to see Gloucester Rugby past Exeter Chiefs at Kingsholm and keep their hopes of a top-six Aviva Premiership Rugby finish alive.
The first half ended pointless as both sides struggled with the slippery conditions, but Thorley’s try and the ever reliable boot of Cherry and Whites captain Greig Laidlaw kept Chiefs at bay and dented their hopes of a home semi-final.
Exeter came close to powering over the line after ten minutes but following a series of drives from the Chiefs forwards the Gloucester defence did well to turn the ball over and clear their lines.
Billy Twelvetrees came close to giving the home side the lead on the twenty minute mark but he faltered when dipping to collect Henry Trinder’s pass and stumbled 15 yards out with the line at his mercy.
England forward Geoff Parling was replaced by Damian Welch on the half-hour mark before Olly Woodburn brought the crowd to life with a blistering kick return, but fumbled the ball inside the Gloucester 22 as he went into contact.
The half then fizzled out without a score as running rugby was at a premium and players struggled in the wet and windy conditions.
Gareth Steenson kicked the scoreboard into action early in the second half with a routine penalty but the home side hit back immediately as Ben Morgan's drive put them on the attack.
Several phases later it was Thorley who crossed the whitewash for a try on his Aviva Premiership Rugby debut with Laidlaw adding the extras.
Steenson closed the gap back to a single point on 47 minutes with a measured kick and Gloucester were denied an opportunity to extend their lead as the referee brought play back for a penalty just as Trinder was clear after an interception.
Defences were firmly on top and the Chief’s resistance in repelling a 16-phase drive from Gloucester was finally broken, as the home side won a penalty just inside the Exeter half and Laidlaw stretched his side’s lead to four points with 20 minutes to play.
The Chiefs were keeping in touch though and Steenson slotted another penalty on 65 minutes as both sides pressed for a match-winning score.
Jack Nowell made life more difficult for his teammates as he was sin-binned with 12 minutes to play for a tip-tackle on Thorley, giving Laidlaw the opportunity for another kick at goal – one he calmly converted.
The Gloucester captain edged his side closer to the winning line with another penalty on 72 minutes and they held out for the vital win that puts them five points behind Harlequins in sixth.