Steenson steers Premiership leaders Exeter to victory over Gloucester

London - Exeter captain Gareth Steenson kicked 16 points as the English Premiership leaders won 26-16 away to southwest rivals Gloucester in a hard-fought clash at Kingsholm on Friday.

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The veteran fly-half produced a fine display with the boot, converting tries by Jacques Vermeulen and Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, in addition to landing four penalty goals.

Victory saw Exeter move five points clear of second-placed Northampton ahead of the bulk of this weekend's matches.

Gloucester managed two late tries from Italy's Jake Polledri and Welsh rising star Louis Rees-Zammit but they were not enough to prevent the fourth-placed Cherry and Whites suffering a sixth defeat in 10 league games so far this season.

Exeter opened the scoring in the 10th minute when their decision to decline a kickable penalty was vindicated by Vermeulen forcing his way over for a try from an attacking line-out.

The Chiefs, however, bungled the restart only for Gloucester to fail to turn pressure into points.

To make matters worse for Gloucester they lost scrum-half Joe Simpson to injury before the experienced Billy Twelvetrees knocked over a penalty.

Exeter led 7-3 at the break, despite two long touch-finders from Gloucester playmaker Danny Cipriani.

Steenson's 40-metre penalty extended their advantage and he then punished further Gloucester infringements with three more penalties from a similar distance.

Exeter now led 19-3 and they put the result beyond doubt with the play of the game, full-back Hogg finishing a fine passing move he had started inside his own half.

Steenson converted but Gloucester reduced the deficit through tries from replacement flanker Polledri and dashing wing Rees-Zammit.