The boot of replacement Tom Putt proved the difference as Exeter Chiefs edged a tight encounter with Gloucester Rugby 11-6, in the fifth place play-off at the Premiership Rugby/RFU U18 Academy Finals Day.
Two Clayton Dee penalties either side of the interval had given Gloucester the lead, despite No.8 Declan Matthews opening the scoring with the game’s only try for Exeter.
But Putt’s two second-half penalties, one a sublime sideline effort from close to halfway, were the difference at Allianz Park.
The U18 Finals Day is a showcase of the best under-18s in the country, where the next generation of Aviva Premiership Rugby and England players look to put their hands up for professional contracts in the future.
The event gives these players the chance to represent their club at a Premiership Rugby stadium, with several almost certain to progress into their first-teams over the next 18-months.
Exeter started the game brightly and put some early pressure on the Gloucester scrum, forcing a penalty after just six minutes, but James McFarlane saw his attempt come back off the post.
The Cherry and Whites missed a penalty attempt of their own 10 minutes later, Dee’s kick from 40 metres drifting right of the posts after Exeter were offside.
In an end-to-end first 20 minutes, a powerful Exeter line-up looked to dominate at scrum-time while Gloucester played some fast free-flowing rugby, with Mason Tonks and Tobin Reynolds making good breaks up the right.
But it was strength that told as Exeter opened the scoring on 22 minutes, winning a Gloucester line-out before Matthews shrugged off three tackles and powered into the corner.
But Gloucester were able to peg them back to 5-3 seven minutes later, Dee this time successful off the tee from right in front of the posts.
The momentum was with Dee’s side ahead of the interval, but despite the exciting fly-half starting to pull the strings in the midfield the score remained 5-3 at half-time.
And the 18-year-old did not have to wait long to add to his tally, when Exeter were penalised for not releasing and Dee kicked Gloucester into the lead for the first time in the game with 43 minutes gone.
And as the rain lashed down on Allianz Park the tight contest continued, with handling errors preventing either sides from making a breakthrough.
But when Gloucester were penalised for offside, Exeter replacement Putt stepped up to smash a superb 56th minute kick from the sideline close to half-way straight through the middle of the posts to wrestle the lead back.
And Putt again was inch-perfect again five minutes later with another penalty to extend Exeter’s lead, as the Cherry and Whites paid the price again for foul play at the breakdown.
Putt was oozing confidence, and despite missing another audacious kick from past the half-way line, Exeter were able to hold off a late charge from Gloucester and claim a deserved 11-6 victory.