Ackermann ‘couldn’t have asked for a better start’

Johan Ackermann was left to reflect on a dream start as Gloucester head coach after his team defeated reigning Aviva Premiership champions Exeter.

Gloucester fullback Jason Woodward crossed for a try two minutes into injury time, with Billy Twelvetrees’ conversion sealing a 28-21 bonus point victory.

It meant that Exeter fell one result short of breaking Leicester’s 17-game unbeaten Premiership record set in 1999-2000, as Gloucester became the first team since Bath 10 months ago to lower Chiefs’ colours in league combat.

For South African Ackermann, who led the Johannesburg-based Lions to a Super Rugby final appearance just a month ago, it meant Premiership life began in five-point fashion.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better start,” he said. “I am grateful for that.

“I am so pleased with the character the guys showed and the effort that went into the game.

“We will enjoy tonight, but the reality is that it is only week one and we definitely cannot get carried away.

“You look at the game as a whole, and it wasn’t a perfect game. There are a list of work-ons for us, but there was good stuff as well.

“We showed belief, which is what I like. I can live with a loss if the team can fight to the end, and that is what they showed.

“Some individuals had great performances and our set-phase was also good, but it is week one and teams will challenge you every week. You cannot take anything for granted.”

Lock Jeremy Thrush scored two first-half tries for the home side, cancelling out Exeter number eight Sam Simmonds’ double, before Gloucester number eight Ben Morgan touched down after 56 minutes.

Billy Burns converted three Gloucester touchdowns, with his opposite number Gareth Steenson booting two conversions, before Exeter wing Olly Woodburn struck nine minutes from time and Henry Slade added the extras.

Slade then missed a penalty two minutes from time, and Gloucester rallied, sealing the win when Twelvetrees sent Woodward scampering over.

Reflecting on the result, Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter said: “Overall, it was about par for us at the start of a season. We haven’t won opening games all that often.

“I was pleased with large parts of what we did. I thought our physical endeavour was very good – we looked like we had fuel in the tank for large parts of the game.

“I thought defensively we didn’t look as excited as we should have been. I am not going to say we were fragile, but it looked a little bit passive.

“It took us a while to find some good defensive energy, so that frustrates me a little bit.

“To be fair to Gloucester, they got the rub of the green on a couple of decisions, but if you are in possession and you are having a bit of a go, sometimes you do get the rub of the green and bounce of the ball.

“We did a lot of good things, and I think I will be really pleased at the physical statistics we chucked into the game. We have just got to work on the day by day stuff and get better.

“There were large periods when we got ourselves in control of the game, and you have got to ram that home, which is what we didn’t quite do.”

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Ackermann ‘couldn’t have asked for a better start’ – RUGBY

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