Steenson's Chiefs are best in the west

Exeter Chiefs 22 Gloucester 10: Fly-half kicks his goals as Robinson misses and new boys start with a bang

With their soaring "Tomahawk Chop" chant rolling out of the stands and away over to Dartmoor, the kings of the Premiership's new frontier sent Gloucester back to Kingsholm to salve their bloodied scalps. Exeter Chiefs arrived in the top flight with an uproarious win in something approaching a cup-final atmosphere and though their stalwart coach, Rob Baxter, wisely restrained any notion of a lap of honour and declared his preference for apple cider over champagne, it was quite just that the promoted club's supporters in this small but happy part of England's west went wild. It is Leicester away next week, but that can wait.

This had always looked a decent first-up fixture for Exeter, who spent 13 years in the second division before making the longed-for leap via wins over Bristol, home and away, in May's Championship final. Gloucester came into this one with their captain, Mike Tindall, fretting over his side's tendency to repeat defensive mistakes. As one of the four clubs never to have been relegated since leagues began in 1987 – Bath, Leicester and Wasps are the others – they have the history and yesterday they had seven England internationals to the Chiefs' none. But Gloucester have weak links in the pack, their line-out fell apart in the second half and the sometimes breath-taking flashes from James Simpson-Daniel in the backs never quite complemented the good work the forwards did in the scrum.

Exeter were fit, fired-up and focused. They had met their opponents only twice before competitively, in cup matches at Kingsholm, and Nicky Robinson certainly lost his bearings at this modern model of an out-of-town stadium, hard by the motorway, missing all five of his goal kicks including the conversions of tries in each half by Simpson-Daniel and Tim Taylor. The 13 points forfeited were costly, considering Exeter were never more than 12 ahead. They were only that 13 minutes from the end, when their master blaster from Ulster, the fly-half Gareth Steenson, squirted over a drop goal to add to his conversion of Mark Foster's try in the fifth minute, and four penalties. Steenson did not miss and the 26-year-old said, with a modicum of sympathy for his opposite number: "The wind here takes a bit of getting used to."

Foster might have prevented Simpson-Daniel scoring after 12 minutes with a better tackle but otherwise Exeter's left wing and their other former Gloucester player, the scrum-half Haydn Thomas, performed superbly. If one man summed them up it was Tom Johnson, for his irresistible surges round the fringes.

The Chiefs' chairman and long-time benefactor, Tony Rowe, confided he had not slept a wink on Friday night. Exeter were champions of the third division in 1996-97 and have been striving for this day ever since, finishing second or third seven times.

The former England prop and professional West Countryman Gareth Chilcott opined on BBC radio that "Bath used to be the gateway to the south west; it's moved an hour down the M5." But no one at the Rugby Football Union has been willing or able to force the Premiership to manufacture a place for the mass of rugby lovers in Devon and Cornwall (the Twickenham influence extending no further than an academy at Exeter since 2002). Exeter were unable to recruit until promotion was secure, six months after the rest of the Premiership had done their serious signings, and half of yesterday's squad were untried at this level. Moreover, the Premiership shareholding favours long stayers so Exeter receive around £1.2million in central funding, roughly half that of the Gloucesters of this world.

Mauling with the best with one hand tied behind your back is not easy but Exeter, who have plans to raise capacity to 20,000 if they stay up, began with a quick free-kick and sharp passing by Steenson and Phil Dollman to create Foster's try. They picked up penalties at the breakdown, weathered the odd tricky scrum, led 16-5 at half-time and did not buckle when Taylor finished off some tidy recycling in the 53rd minute.

Baxter, 39, was ever present through that third-division success and has been with Exeter for 20 years. His 32-year-old brother, Richie, is in his testimonial season as a No 8 but he was forced by a shoulder injury to sit out this signal day. "It was a fantastic occasion," said Baxter the coach, "but we're not going to celebrate till we know we're here [in the Premiership] next year. If any boys had suggested a lap of honour I'd have thrown them in the changing room myself."

In a large area customarily referred to as a hotbed of the English game the Chiefs and the rest - the Cornish Pirates, Launceston, Plymouth Albion, Redruth, Camborne and so on – rise and fall on the whims of backers and councils supportive or otherwise. Throwing their weight behind Exeter's Devonians may clot many a Cornishman's cream, but it could make a lot of sense.

Exeter Chiefs L Arscott; N Sestaret, P Dollman (M Jess, 45-55), B Rennie (Jess, 55), M Foster; G Steenson, H Thomas (G Cowley, 73); B Sturgess (B Moon, 68), N Clark (S Alcott, 50), H Tui (C Budgen, 56), T Hayes (capt), J Hanks (D Gannon, 68), T Johnson, J Phillips (C Slade, 50), J Scaysbrook.

Gloucester O Morgan (T Taylor, 23); J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall (capt, T Molenaar, 61), E Fuimaono-Sapolu, L Vainikolo; N Robinson, D Lewis (J Pasqualin, 66); N Wood (A Dickinson, 54), S Lawson (O Azam, 68), P Capdevielle, D Attwood, A Brown (W James, 68), P Buxton (A Strokosch, 48), L Narraway, A Qera.

Referee R Debney (Leicestershire).

Competition: Win a pair of tickets to a Aviva Premiership rugby match of your choice with QBE

'The Independent on Sunday' has teamed up with QBE, the specialist in business insurance, to offer you the chance to win tickets to a Premiership rugby match of your choice next weekend.

Six winners will each receive a pair of tickets to one of the following games courtesy of QBE, the official business insurance partner of Premiership Rugby.

Fri 10 Sept: Newcastle v London Wasps. Sat 11 Sept: Harlequins v Northampton; Bath v London Irish; Gloucester v Leeds Carnegie; Leicester v Exeter. Sun 12 Sept: Saracens v Sale.

For your chance to win, answer the following question:

Which England international and former Leicester Tigers player has signed a three-year deal with Bath Rugby?

a) Lewis Moody

b) Simon Shaw

c) Harry Ellis

The deadline for entries is 11am on Wed 8 Sept 2010.

Send your answer to m.padgett@independent.co.uk, stating which match you would like to attend, along with your contact details (including full postal address and daytime telephone number).

QBE are proud of their partnership with the most successful rugby union league in the world, attracting the best players and the highest attendances. For more information please go to www.qbeeurope.com

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week