Skipper Mumm inspires Chiefs to impressive victory at Kingsholm
EXETER CHIEFS delivered the perfect response to the disappointment of defeat to Leicester with a remarkably comfortable 29-12 Premiership win at "Fortress Kingsholm" yesterday.
In fact, the margin of victory – Exeter's second in three seasons at Gloucester – could have been even more emphatic.
Television match official (TMO) Rowan Kitt controversially denied them two tries, while kicking machine Gareth Steenson missed three shots at goal, one of which he would certainly have expected to have slotted.
However, as in the recent win at London Irish, Dean Mumm and Ben White popped up with touchdowns, while Steenson amassed 19 points with his boot, to secure the spoils.
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With Saturday's results not going their way, the Chiefs started the game lying second from bottom of the Aviva Premiership.
Seeing that in their morning papers at the breakfast table in the team hotel might have frightened some players, but it seemed to spur the Chiefs on to great heights.
Their third win in five games leaves them sitting in sixth place in the division, one place above 2012 champions Harlequins, at the end of the first block of Premiership fixtures as they go into a two-week break for Heineken Cup action.
Even more satisfying is that, of those five matches, three have been against teams that finished in last season's top five, and three have been away from home – and next up is bottom-of-the-table Worcester Warriors at Sandy Park on October 26.
The cornerstone of the performance was an excellent display by the forwards, who had been heavily criticised for their first-half showing against the Tigers seven days before.
Both scrums and line-outs were immeasurably better, and as a team they produced their best defensive display of the season, but there were heroes all over the pitch against a home line-up containing four members of England's Elite Playing Squad.
Dave Lewis enjoyed an impressive game against his old club on his first start for Exeter; youngsters Dave Ewers and Sam Hill were again to the fore; while Mumm was inspirational as skipper, and was spot on with his decision-making.
With four changes to their starting line-up, Exeter came roaring out of the blocks, and forced Gloucester into giving away a stream of penalties, but Steenson was on target with only one of three shots at goal, failing with one simple effort, while hitting the crossbar with a much more difficult kick.
After his three-pointer in the 19th minute, Exeter failed to secure the restart kick, former England captain Mike Tindall made good ground, and a lovely inside pass by British Lion Billy Twelvetrees sent full-back Martyn Thomas racing to the line.
Freddie Burns missed the conversion, but Gloucester led 5-3, despite having been under the cosh.
It was all Exeter in the second quarter, though, as the scoreboard started to reflect their dominance.
Steenson was successful with one out of two more penalty chances, before Australian flanker White grabbed his second try of the season, courtesy of the TMO, after recalled hooker Chris Whitehead had almost reached the try line himself, with Steenson converting.
Three minutes before the break, Exeter were convinced tight-head prop Hoani Tui had also grounded the ball over the whitewash after a catch-and-drive line-out move, but Kitt begged to differ, and the Chiefs had to settle for only a 13-5 interval lead.
Steenson stretched their advantage with another penalty early in the second half, but the visitors then repelled a tremendous onslaught from Gloucester as they tried to get back into the game.
With their line still intact, Exeter forged back downfield and should have had a penalty try just past the hour mark when what looked odds-on a try-scoring pass by Matt Jess to Ian Whitten was knocked to the ground by Burns' outstretched hand.
The crowd waited for at the very least a penalty, and a yellow card for Burns, but Kitt inexplicably deemed the England fly-half had merely knocked on.
However, Exeter put their disbelief behind them when Mumm finished off another period of intense pressure on the home line with his third try of the season three minutes later, and Steenson added the extras for a 23-5 lead.
Gloucester responded in typical fashion with a touchdown from the England wing Jonny May, improved by Burns, but it was a mere blip for the Chiefs as they wrapped up victory with two more simple Steenson penalties in the final six minutes.
There was still time for Exeter's replacement full-back, Henry Slade, to deny his England Under-20 team-mate Elliott Stooke a certain try in the final play of the game when his tackle dislodged the ball from the big lock's grasp.