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
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
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

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker