So maybe Exeter are not quite as good as we thought, lacking the necessary precision and calmness when most needed, and Gloucester are certainly not as bad as some of us thought.
For this was a stunning away victory for Gloucester, one full of resilience and character, as Exeter always threatened to run away with the game, but Gloucester always hauled them back in a thrilling second half.
They forced Exeter into mistakes and took their chances accordingly. After losing two matches at Kingsholm, this may well be a turning point for them after a difficult season.
But for Exeter it was a match they simply blew, confirming a third successive defeat. It was not one a side with top-four aspirations should be losing, that is for certain. They were woefully profligate in the first half and once they had gone 14-9 up early in the second half with two quick tries, they really should have kicked on and taken the game. But they gifted a soft try and were never able to escape Gloucester’s shackles again.
It was Exeter’s 100th match in the Premiership but the figure that counted was the number of mistakes they made in a patchy display that showed how far they have come since reaching the top flight and the distance they have to go. They took the lead three times but never held it for more than five minutes and if there was not quite a whiff of complacency against opponents who had lost five league games out of six and were stuck in the bottom half of the table, there was a lack of humility.
They believed Gloucester would buckle under pressure and from the outset launched a wave of attacks.
There were two problems to this strategy. The first was that Gloucester, for all their ordinariness when in possession and a slightly disjointed look generally, got stuck in, appreciating the match for the derby it was. They had lost three of the past four games between the sides in the Premiership. Exeter let everything hang out, but the more they showed, the more untidy they became.
Gloucester ruined Exeter’s centenary celebrations as they edged their West Country rivals at Sandy Park. It was the 100th game in the Premiership for the Devon club against the side who they defeated on their first game in rugby’s top flight back in 2010.
The usually reliable boot of Gareth Steenson was most culpable. The Chiefs fly-half gifted the visitors a crucial try when Exeter were on top in the second half.
The Ulsterman’s misjudged kick from his own line was charged down by Tom Savage. It came two minutes after Chiefs had snatched the initiative with two tries in two minutes by wingers Jack Nowell and Matt Jess.
Steenson also failed with a vital conversion after Thomas Waldrom had crashed over with nine minutes left. His kick would have given the Chiefs a one-point lead late on, but his attempt came back off the left post.
Exeter were the better team in the first half, but were unable to convert pressure into points. Two penalties from Greig Laidlaw were the only scores of a lacklustre half.
What was a fluctuating game fortunately sparked up in the second half. First England centre Billy Twelvetrees stroked home a superb drop kick from 45 metres to put Gloucester 9-0 ahead.
Then, Nowell gave England team-mate Ben Morgan the slip in the 49th minute to score the first try of the game, which was quickly followed by a 80-metre dash from Jess to the line after he gobbled up a wayward pass from Twelvetrees.
Steenson converted both tries to put Chiefs 14-9 ahead.
But after Steenson’s error let in Savage, Laidlaw converted to give Gloucester a narrow lead. Steenson and Laidlaw exchanged penalties before Ben Morgan crashed over to gain breathing space.
Gloucester clung on for a monumental one-point victory over Exeter Chiefs in an enthralling encounter at Sandy Park.
The Cherry and Whites took an unlikely six-point lead into the changing rooms at half-time thanks to the boot of Greig Laidlaw despite the hosts’ dominance.
But the clash burst into life with five tries in a sensational, drama-filled, second-half to climb to eighth in the Premiership table.
Exeter took the ascendancy with two tries in two minutes from Jack Nowell and Matt Jess but Gloucester instantly responded through Tom Savage.
They took a further stride towards victory when Ben Morgan powered over for a second try before Thomas Waldrom set up a thrilling finale.
Just like last season Steenson had the opportunity to boot the hosts into a one-point lead as full-time approached but again he was off-target and Gloucester clung on.
Gloucester made three changes for the trip down the M5 with Steve McColl paying the price for a pair of defensive errors against Wasps.
The full-back was dropped from the squad, with Charlie Sharples moving to full-back and David Haliafonua making his first start for the club on the wing.
Elsewhere Richard Hibbard also dropped out of the squad with Darren Dawidiuk starting at hooker and Ben Morgan returning from a hamstring strain to take Gareth Evans’ place at number eight.