Exeter Chiefs continued their perfect record of bonus point wins in the Gallagher Premiership by beating Gloucester Rugby 28-20 at Sandy Park on Boxing Day.

Sam Simmonds scored another brace of tries while Jonny Gray and Ollie Devoto also touched down to keep Chiefs comfortably top of the league, with Joe Simmonds adding all four conversions.

After a fortnight hit by Covid disruptions it wasn’t straightforward for Exeter, with Gloucester proving to stern test.

The Cherry and Whites touched down twice through replacement scrum half Toby Venner to mark an impressive debut while fly-half Lloyd Evans kicked 10 points, but crucially he missed twice from the tee and put a drop goal wide meaning the visitors left empty handed from their trip down the M5.

Exeter Chiefs rugby writer John Evely takes a closer look at the individual performances at Sandy Park.

15 Stuart Hogg – 7

The full back left the field just before half time with an apparent injury which forced a reshuffle in the backline but he had time to show his quality in the first half. Despite taking the ball standing still he exploded into life to make a half line break and put in a couple of clever positional kicks to win kicking duels.

14 Olly Woodburn – 7

It was in defence were the winger stood out on Boxing Day

In the first half he did brilliantly well to stop a rampaging Jack Singleton after the hooker took a cross-field kick and after the break he made a key tackle along with Dave Ewers to force Ollie Thorley ino touch in the second half. Both interventions were as valuable as scoring seven points himself.

13 Ian Whitten – 8

The flanker picked up a yellow card in the first half for a deliberate knock on and looked sluggish in attack on the heavy ground having taken a knock early on. But he was unbelievable in defence, putting in countless tackles as Gloucesters lightning attack of Jonny May, Louis Rees-Zammit and Ollie Thorley looked to threaten the wide channels.

His judgement when to bite in and make the tackle and when to back off and use the touchline as an extra defender was impeccable. Looked more comfortable on the wing than at outside centre where he started with England international Henry Slade getting his mandatory two week rest.

12 Ollie Devoto – 7

The centre picked a great line to burst through the Gloucester defence for his try, running onto a sumptuous delayed pass from Joe Simmonds.

11 Tom O’Flaherty – 7

The winger made a team high 39m with Chiefs struggling to break the Gloucester straggle hold in the backline. He did it by intelligently looking for mismatches, spotting prop Fraser Balmain in front of him in the 13th minute before using a combination of his footwork and pace to escape on the outside.



Joe Simmonds of Exeter Chiefs makes a break

10 Joe Simmonds (capt) – 8

Once again the fly-half didn’t miss from the kicking tee to finish with eight points from four conversions. He was unlucky not to be credited with a try following a strong blindside break after it was judged he had knocked the ball on in a tackle from Jack Singleton as he crossed the line.

Produced a clever delayed pass to put Ollie Devoto over for a try, drawing in two defenders by drifting across the line before popping the ball to his centre.

Another display of his leadership as he was visually and verbally demanding high intensity in the second half and got it.

9 Jack Maunder – 7

The scrum half controlled the game well with accurate box kicking and passing and despite being the smallest man on the pitch he also made a number of key try saving tackles, including one on Cherry and Whites hooker Jack Singleton following the England man taking a wonderful cross-field kick from Lloyd Evans,

1 Ben Moon – 7

The prop was on top in the setpiece throughout and always in the thick of the tight forward play which was particularly important to victory on the heavy and wet pitch which cut up following the deluge in recent days.

2 Luke Cowan-Dickie – 8

The hooker is such an explosive carrier of the ball he is like having another number eight on the field. His ability to win and bounce out of the first contact is quite simply remarkable and he is hot on the heels of Saracen’s Jamie George to claiming the England number two jersey.

3 Harry Williams – 7

Chiefs were on top in the scrum from the first minute of the game when the two sides came together following a knock on at the kick-off. Won a penalty against the impressive Val Rapava-Ruskin six minutes in with Gloucester threatening at a five metre scrum having been held up over the line moments earlier.

4 Jonny Gray – 9

The Scottish second row scored his second try for the club but that was just the tip of the iceberg of the giant performance from the international lock. He set the tone early with a big double tackle on Jordy Reid and then held up Ruan Ackermann over the line to deny a Gloucester try after just five minutes.

His try just before the break was not simple either, having to react as the ball squirmed out the back of a ruck after Luke Cowan-Dickie was stopped just short of the try line.

5 Sam Skinner – 7

The Scotland international had a strong performance at the line out, taking four on Chiefs’ throw and stealing one from Gloucester. Named the Exeter fans’ man of the of the match.

6 Dave Ewers – 8

The flanker made a powerful tackle to deny Ollie Thorley from scoring, forcing him into touch with the England winger just inches away from scoring a try.

They don’t hand out try assists for dragging players over the line to score tries, instead that honour is reserved for flashy passes like that from Joe Simmonds for Ollie Devoto, but if they did Ewers would be top of the league. He provided the power for Gray’s score dragging him over the line. Perhaps the most underrated player in the league.

7 Jannes Kirsten – 7

The flanker set the tone with his physicality but conceded a penalty 10 minutes in for a marginal tackle in the air on Jonny May which allowed Gloucester fly-half Lloyd Evans to open the scores with a penalty kick.

Took up the normal Ewers role after the break to drag Sam Simmonds over the line for his first try of the match, splintering off the catch and drive maul to escape the counter push from Gloucester’s forwards.

8 Sam Simmonds – 8

The number eight scored a brace of tries to make it a remarkable eight for the season in just five games. It is no accident the ball finishes in his hand at the orchestrated line outs but his close range finish from open play once again displayed he is no one trick pony, intelligently finding his way to the line in a pile of bodies.

A true talisman.



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Replacements:

16 Jack Yeandle – 6, 17 Alec Hepburn – 7, 18 Marcus Street – 7, 19 Don Armand – 7, 20 Richard Capstick – 7, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne – 6, 22 Harvey Skinner – 6, 23 Tom Hendrickson – 7.





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