Wasps suffer agonising final defeat in extra time

A memorable season ended in heartbreak and disappointment for Wasps, as Gareth Steenson’s penalty, two minutes from the end of extra time, denied them their first trophy in nine years. 

23 - 20
Exeter Chiefs Wasps

Sat 27th May 2017
2:30 pm

Twickenham Stadium Aviva Premiership Final

After conceding two first-half tries to go 14-3 down, Wasps scored a try through Jimmy Gopperth to go into the break only four points down. Elliot Daly’s try early in the second half gave them a 20-14 lead, but the final quarter belonged to Exeter.

A magnificent defensive effort by Wasps took them agonisingly close to glory, but two Gareth Steenson penalties, the second coming in the final minute, took the game into extra time. The exhausting 20 minutes, played in blazing sunshine, proved too much for Wasps and constant Exeter pressure led to the decisive score. Steenson landing another penalty, two minutes before the final whistle.

Wasps made a promising start, after Exeter gathered the kick-off and cleared. Willie Le Roux leapt high to gather and it was Josh Bassett who fielded the next clearance. Quick ball was moved infield and skipper Joe Launchbury stormed through a gap, but James Haskell was unable to gather his sharp pass just inside the Exeter half.

The resultant scrum yielded an Exeter penalty, which found touch just inside the Wasps 22. After Thomas Waldrom broke away from the first drive, Wasps conceded another penalty, which was put into touch at the left corner. The inevitable drive came but it was stopped by the Wasps defence and the scrum went Wasps’ way. An early push by Exeter gave Wasps a free-kick and a long kick found touch just inside the Exeter half.

After an Exeter attack was stopped by a crunching tackle from Nathan Hughes, James Haskell won a turnover and the ball was moved quickly out to the left but Danny Cipriani’s kick-ahead went out on the full.

Wasps’ first potent attack came when Elliot Daly slipped through a gap in midfield. When the ball was moved out towards Josh Bassett, a wayward pass went behind him into touch.

With Nathan Hughes putting in a series of crunching tackles in midfield, Exeter’s first threat came when they moved the ball out wide and Olly Woodburn’s menacing run took play into the 22. The ball was spun out to the right but a long pass failed to reach its target and Dan Robson was on hand to steal the ball, but lost possession a few metres inside Wasps own half.

After an Exeter penalty found touch inside the Wasps 22, the anticipated drive was replaced by a backs move with Jack Nowell coming off his wing, to race through a gap and go round the defence for a try near the right corner. Gareth Steenson converted to make it 7-0 after 15 minutes.

Wasps roared back with Jimmy Gopperth finding space in midfield. He fed Josh Bassett, who almost reached the line, before passing to Dan Robson in support. He was swallowed up by the defence, but Nathan Hughes put in a powerful charge towards the left corner. When the ball came back infield James Haskell knocked on, a few metres from the posts, but the referee had been playing advantage for offside. Jimmy Gopperth landed the kick.

Before the restart Nathan Hughes left the field for a head injury assessment, to be temporarily replaced by Guy Thompson. Wasps had a stroke of luck when Exeter found touch after the ball had been carried back into the 22, but Jimmy Gopperth knocked on as he shaped to chip ahead on his ten-metre line. The scrum went down and Wasps won the penalty but Danny Cipriani’s long kick towards the right corner missed touch.

On 25 minutes Nathan Hughes returned to the field, to join a scrum just inside the Wasps half. The Exeter pack drove Wasps back to win a penalty, which found touch just outside the 22. Two minutes later it was Phil Swainston’s turn to go off for a head injury assessment to be replaced by Marty Moore.

Exeter immediately added their second try when Ollie Devoto’s powerful run took him close to the line and Phil Dollman was on hand to gather his deft offload and go over near the posts. Steenson added the conversion.

Nathan Hughes’ charge round the edge of a breakdown took Wasps deep into the Exeter 22. From a scrum, Elliot Daly hoisted a chip towards the corner and Josh Bassett came close to a try before being forced into touch at the corner.

After Wasps put together a sustained period of pressure inside the Exeter 22, Danny Cipriani tried a short inside pass to Christian Wade. He was hit by a heavy tackle and the ball bounced into the hands of Stuart Townsend, who put in a long kick downfield with Josh Bassett doing well to cover and gather just inside his 22.

Marty Moore’s permanent replacement was confirmed a few minutes before the break. Inside the final minute of the half, wonderful quick hands in midfield sent Elliot Daly racing away down the right, but he was hauled down just outside the 22 and the ball went into touch.

With the lineout launching the final play of the half, Wasps came right back into the game with a glorious try. Danny Cipriani’s inside pass sent Tommy Taylor storming through midfield. He found Dan Robson and the scrum-half passed back outside to Jimmy Gopperth, who went over near the posts. His conversion left the halftime score at 14-10 to Exeter, after 40 minutes of thrilling rugby which had lived up to all the pre-match expectations.

After several minutes of Exeter pressure at the start of the second half, Wasps won a turnover on their 22 and Nathan Hughes put in a barnstorming charge to take play up towards halfway. The ball was moved out to the right where Christian Wade did well to gather millimetres from touch. He kicked ahead and embarked on a race with Olly Woodburn. The bounce beat both of them, but Elliot Daly was on hand to gather and cross for a try which gave Wasps the lead for the first time. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion hit the inside of the right post but landed on the right side of the bar.

Wasps then produced a scintillating attack down the left, with Willie Le Roux’s superb pass out of the tackle sending Josh Bassett away down the touchline. He was stopped just short, but Wasps were penalised at the breakdown and Exeter were able to ease the pressure.

Wasps then had another stroke of luck, when an overhit penalty went into touch-in-goal. Another high-speed Wasps attack then found Christian Wade, but he clipped the touchline as he gathered a few metres outside the 22.

Wasps then created a golden opportunity when another flowing move set up a huge overlap on the left but James Haskell hung on to the ball just outside the 22. Moments later, further Wasps pressure won them a penalty just inside the 22. Jimmy Gopperth’s successful kick put his side 20-14 ahead with 26 minutes still to play.

Seventeen minutes from time, Gareth Steenson pulled back three points with a 35-metre penalty. Several minutes of furious pressure, with play going through 24 phases, eventually won them a penalty in front of the posts but they turned down the easy three points on offer and opted to take a scrum. They won possession but the Wasps defence held firm.

Another scrum followed to the left of the posts. Again the Wasps scrum was solid, and superb scavenging by Guy Thompson won a priceless turnover. A huge Elliot Daly clearance brought temporary relief, but Exeter were soon back on the attack. 

With three minutes left and Exeter dominating possession, the Wasps defence forced a knock-on 15 metres from the line. Wasps won possession and Elliot Daly put in a long clearance. It landed near halfway but bounced infield. Exeter moved back upfield and won a penalty just outside the 22. He made no mistake with his kick to level the scores with seconds to go and take the game into extra time.

With the sun now beating down Wasps kicked off the first period of extra time and a controlled period of possession created an opportunity to test the defence. However Kearnan Myall was unable to hold a sharp pass from Nathan Hughes just inside the Exeter half. Wasps were then forced into a front-row replacement, with Matt Mullan coming back on for Marty Moore who had received attention several times in the closing quarter of normal time. Simon McIntyre moved from loosehead to tighthead, ensuring that scrums remained contested. 

Exeter began as they had ended normal time, with intense pressure, before Wasps won a penalty close to their line with five minutes of the first half gone. Two minutes before the break they won a penalty inside their own half and Danny Cipriani found touch in the right corner. Untidy possession was won but the ball was moved out to the left, where Josh Bassett was bundled into touch. Exeter’s long throw missed the target and Ashley Johnson gathered to power his way into the 22, but the position came to nothing and halftime in extra time arrived with the score still level. 

It was all Exeter at the start of the final ten minutes, with Wasps under constant siege. Five minutes before the final whistle, yet another forward drive ended up over the line. After a lengthy consultation with the TMO, it was ruled that no try had been scored. A series of scrums ended with the inevitable Exeter penalty a few metres to the left of the posts.

Steenson put his side within reach of their first ever Premiership title with an ice-cool kick, with only two minutes left on the clock. Exeter safely gathered the restart then calmly played out the closing seconds to break Wasps hearts and end a dramatic final.

Exeter Chiefs Line ups

  1. Ben Moon
  2. Luke Cowan-Dickie
  3. Harry Williams
  4. David Dennis
  5. Geoff Parling
  6. Kai Horstmann
  7. Don Armand
  8. Thomas Waldrom
  9. Stuart Townsend
  10. Gareth Steenson
  11. Olly Woodburn
  12. Ollie Devoto
  13. Ian Whitten
  14. Jack Nowell
  15. Phil Dollman
  16. Jack Yeandle
  17. Carl Rimmer
  18. Tomas Francis
  19. Mitch Lees
  20. Sam Simmonds
  21. Will Chudley
  22. Henry Slade
  23. Michele Campagnaro

Wasps Line ups

  1. Matt Mullan
  2. Tommy Taylor
  3. Phil Swainston
  4. Joe Launchbury
  5. Matt Symons
  6. James Haskell
  7. Thomas Young
  8. Nathan Hughes
  9. Dan Robson
  10. Danny Cipriani
  11. Josh Bassett
  12. Jimmy Gopperth
  13. Elliot Daly
  14. Christian Wade
  15. Willie Le Roux
  16. Ashley Johnson
  17. Simon McIntyre
  18. Martin Moore
  19. Kearnan Myall
  20. Guy Thompson
  21. Joe Simpson
  22. Alapati Leiua
  23. Frank Halai