Exeter Chiefs stay in the play-off conversation with a comfortable win at Gloucester

Exeter Chiefs kept their Gallagher Premiership play-off hopes alive by cruising to victory away at West Country rivals Gloucester, winning 38-17 at Kingsholm.

The Chiefs still have it all to do, lying four points adrift of the top four with only two regular season games left against Harlequins and Leicester, but a bonus-point victory orchestrated by England centre Henry Slade keeps them in the hunt. Slade’s creative midfield presence caused Gloucester problems all afternoon, while he also kicked a penalty and converted all five of Exeter’s tries from flanker Jacques Vermeulen (2), full-back Dan John and wingers Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and Olly Woodburn.

Ninth-placed Gloucester undoubtedly had an eye on next weekend’s European Challenge Cup semi-final appointment with Benetton, and they never seriously threatened Exeter despite tries by winger Jonny May, flanker Jack Clement and lock Arthur Clark, while fly-half Charlie Atkinson added one conversion.

READ MORE: Gloucester Rugby 17-38 Exeter Chiefs LIVE reaction and highlights from Kingsholm

Exeter made the early running and almost went ahead when scrum-half Tom Cairns charged down a kick from his opposite number Stephen Varney, but although Gloucester escaped on that occasion, they fell behind to a 40-metre Slade penalty.

Gloucester then went close through centre Max Llewellyn, but Exeter were quickly back on the front foot and extended their lead after 14 minutes. The home side managed to halt a driven lineout, but Exeter stayed patient and official player of the match Vermeulen went over from close range with Slade adding the conversion.

Exeter continued moving impressively through the gears, and a second try arrived just four minutes later after a short pass from Harvey Skinner sent his midfield partner Slade through a huge gap, with John taking an offload off the deck to provide the finish.

Slade’s conversion made it 17-0, leaving Gloucester in all kinds of strife until May provided a glimmer of hope for them when he scored a try 11 minutes before the interval.

But Exeter soon reasserted themselves on the contest, cutting open Gloucester’s defence courtesy of Slade’s break as he spotted a mismatch with lock Clark, and Woodburn applied the finish.

Slade converted from the touchline, yet Gloucester had the first-half’s final say when Clement crossed unopposed, reducing Exeter’s lead to 24-10.

Gloucester began the second period brightly through strong attacking work from May and Llewellyn, only to see Exeter regain territorial control and Harvey Skinner’s long pass send an unmarked Feyi-Waboso over to score. Slade’s immaculate form with the boot continued via a touchline conversion, but after Clark charged down a Cairns clearance to score and Atkinson converted, Gloucester threatened an unlikely fightback.

Centre Chris Harris broke clear in midfield and found Varney in support, and it took an outstanding cover tackle from Skinner to deny the Italy international.It was a warning to the Chiefs, but once again they responded and Vermeulen’s second try as he bulldozed through the home defence, with Slade converting to put considerable daylight between the teams.

Gloucester pushed for their fourth try and a losing bonus point during the closing stages, but Exeter comfortably kept them out as they made it an emphatic case of job done.

Gloucester: 15. Jake Morris, 14. Jonny May, 13. Chris Harris, 12. Max Llewellyn, 11. Ollie Thorley, 10. Charlie Atkinson, 9. Stephen Varney; 1. Jamal Ford-Robinson, 2. Seb Blake, 3. Kirill Gotovtsev, 4. Freddie Clarke, 5. Arthur Clark, 6. Ruan Ackermann, 7. Jack Clement, 8. Zach Mercer (C)

Replacements: 16. Santi Socino, 17. Mayco Vivas, 18. Ciaran Knight, 19. Freddie Thomas, 20. Lewis Ludlow, 21. Charlie Chapman, 22. Caolan Englefield, 23. Louis Hillman-Cooper

Exeter Chiefs: 15 Dan John, 14 Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Tom Cairns; 1 Scott Sio, 2 Jack Yeandle, 3 Marcus Street, 4 Jack Dunne, 5 Dafydd Jenkins (c), 6 Ethan Roots, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 8 Greg Fisilau

Replacements: 16 Max Norey, 17 Danny Southworth, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Christ Tshiunza, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Niall Armstrong, 22 Will Haydon-Wood, 23 Zack Wimbush.

Referee: Christophe Ridley

Assistant Referees: Tom Foley & Peter Allan

TMO: Stuart Terheege

Attendance: 11,726