Tuesday 19 February 2019

Early exit for Exeter

Exeter 19 Gloucester 27

Gloucester's Jake Polledri gets through the tackle of Exeter's Phil Dollman during their Heineken Champions Cup match. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Gloucester's Jake Polledri gets through the tackle of Exeter's Phil Dollman during their Heineken Champions Cup match. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Independent.ie Sportsdesk

Exeter's hopes of European glory were all but extinguished as they crashed to a surprise home defeat yesterday. The loss left Exeter without a win in their first three European matches and leaves them rooted to the bottom of Pool 2 with only three points and difficult trips to Munster and Gloucester still to come.

Gloucester were deserved winners with tries from Willi Heinz, Jaco Visagie and Ben Morgan. Danny Cipriani kicked two penalties and two conversions, with Billy Twelvetrees adding a conversion.

Exeter's tries came from Nic White, Tom Lawday and Don Armand, with Gareth Steenson adding two conversions, but it was not enough to secure even a bonus point so they remain at the bottom of Pool 2 with only three points from their first three games.

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter accepted his side's European campaign was virtually over.

Gloucester's Gerbrandt Grobler gets past Sam Skinner to score a try. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Gloucester's Gerbrandt Grobler gets past Sam Skinner to score a try. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

"The group still haven't got it mentally right around Europe yet, as Gloucester were individually and collectively better than us," Baxter said. "We are normally efficient with the cogs fitting in well but our set-piece didn't function and we were bitty.

"There was no clarity of thinking and our machine stuttered as we made error after error. Matt (Kvesic) kicking the ball away gave them a try and it took the wind out of our sails and after that there was multiple errors as we kicked the ball out on the full and our tackling was passive.

"We still have a lot of learn but there are still 15 points to fight for in this competition and next Friday at Kingsholm will be a great opportunity for us to do better but the repercussions from this game will take a lot of assessing."

Gloucesters head coach Johan Ackermann was delighted as he saw his side turn around a 23-6 league defeat at Sandy Park only a fortnight ago.

"We were much better and learnt to be more patient and today, unlike then, a few things went our way," he said. "We matched them for territory and possession and our set piece functioned well but the boys said it is one of the most physical games that they have ever played in.

"We started badly in both halves but I was particularly pleased that we didn't panic when things were going against us.

Exeter's Don Armand beats Owen Williams of Gloucester Rugby to score a try. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Exeter's Don Armand beats Owen Williams of Gloucester Rugby to score a try. Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images

"The team has grown tremendously in fronting up against setbacks and the players now have more belief, as last season we conceded 50 points at Saracens in the second half when we were in contention at half-time so hopefully we are closing gaps."

Gloucester now face Exeter in the return fixture at Kingsholm, a task which Ackermann accepted would be daunting.

"If we lose next week no one will talk about this game but it gives our guys self-belief although we will have to knuckle down as we are expecting a big backlash next Friday for they are a very good side," he added.

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