Exeter seal Premiership trophy in thriller
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Exeter Chiefs were crowned Premiership Champions for the first time after recording a 23-20 win against Wasps in extra-time at Twickenham.
Exeter Chiefs flyhalf Gareth Steenson’s penalty 30 seconds from normal time levelled the game and meant both sets of players had to endure another ten minutes each way in the warm London sun.
And flyhalf Steenson settled the matter with the only points in extra time just two minutes from the end to break Wasps hearts.
The men from Devon made it second time lucky as they shrugged off the disappointment of last year’s Twickenham defeat by Sarries to deny Wasps.
It may not have been the points-fest so many had predicted but that was not due to a lack of effort and endeavour as Chiefs led 14-10 at the break.
Wasps had no answer when Chiefs worked a line-out superbly as Thomas Waldrom fed Luke Cowan-Dickie and the hooker’s sublime pass inside to Nowell put the England wing through and across the line for a try converted by Steenson.
Wasps retaliated with their own pressure on the Chiefs line but the Devon team’s defence stood firm for a while until they gave away a penalty and centre Jimmy Gopperth reduced the lead.
Wasps’ England No8 Nathan Hughes was taken off for a head injury assessment but soon returned to the back of the scrum. Prop Phil Swainston also sustained a blow to the face and was led off the field but he failed his HIA and was replaced.
Moments later a searing Chiefs attack saw Ollie Devoto produce a short pass to the supporting Dollman with the fullback forcing his way over with Steenson converting.
But there was still a late twist to the first half as Wasps finally broke through the thick white Chiefs defensive line.
Cipriani made the original break, fed to hooker Tommy Taylor who combined with Dan Robson to send Gopperth darting through and over for a try he converted himself. A real lifeline which put them just four points behind at the break.
Wasps poked their noses in front for the first time three minutes into the second half as Hughes showed all his mighty strength and power to shrug off a posse of Chiefs rivals and spark a surge down field.
Christian Wade’s chip through bounced perfectly for Elliot Daly who grabbed the ball and touched down.
Gopperth converted and the game had changed complexion completely. Steenson responded to reduce Wasps advantage to three points with just over 15 minutes remaining.
Exeter took a risk by rejecting an easy three points in front of the Wasps posts and took a scrum instead. Tension and what was at stake took over as Chiefs struggled to gain control and possession of the ball from their own scrum just inches from the line.
That risk failed to pay off but there was one last chance for Steenson to kick the game into extra time. An equally nervous extra time of ten minutes each half saw Chiefs replacement hooker Jack Yeandle go close but fail to claim a try.
But it was left to Steenson to kick the decisive penalty when Wasps collapsed a scrum and Chiefs and their fans could celebrate joyously.
Victory saw southwest side Exeter crowned champions of England for the first time in their 146-year history.
Man of the match: Wasps No.8 Nathan Huges, despite his one mistake which cost his side the match, was influential with his impeccable work at the breakdown and strong carries. Exeter Chiefs scrumhalf Stuart Townsend made sure his backline got quick ball before he was replaced at halftime. Exeter Chiefs Jack Nowell was influential and caused a few headaches for Wasps' defence out wide. Our man of the match goes to Exeter Chiefs flyhalf Gareth Steenson, for his ability to read the game and his calmness in front of the posts.
Tries: Gopperth, Daly
Cons: Gopperth 2
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Nowell, Dollman
Cons: Steenson 2
Pens: Steenson 2
Wasps: 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan
Replacements: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Frank Halai
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (captain), 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand, 6 Kai Horstmann, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Michele Campagnaro
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley, Luke Pearce
TMO: Rowan Kitt