Wasps edge home against champions in brutal contest

Marcus Watson’s first-half try and some outstandingly committed defence enabled Wasps to claim a 13-7 home win over defending Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs.

13 - 7
Wasps Exeter Chiefs

Sun 18th February 2018
3:00 pm

Ricoh Arena Stadium Aviva Premiership As it happened

The visitors responded after the break through Luke Cowan-Dickie, but were unable to prevent Dai Young’s third-placed team from claiming the spoils through two Jimmy Gopperth penalties.

Wasps gave as good as they got in a brutally physical encounter reminiscent of last year’s Twickenham final between the same teams.

However, the four points gained – which moved Dai Young’s team within five points of top-flight leaders Saracens – came at the cost of four injuries.

In an opening passage of play which lasted over two minutes, the visitors retained possession through multiple phases and after a powerful run by Cowan-Dickie took them close only some outstanding defence kept the home line intact.

It took eight minutes for Wasps to make their first incursion into Exeter’s half, but their line-out throw was stolen a few metres from the line. Moments later, more sound defensive work from the Chiefs thwarted another promising attack by the hosts and won the visitors a scrum put-in five metres from their own line.

However, the home pack produced a mighty surge to steal possession against the head. Jack Willis gathered and made a charge for the line and when the ball was recycled and moved wide Marcus Watson rode a tackle to touch down.

Danny Cipriani converted from the touchline and before the restart Exeter’s Jonny Hill was shown a yellow card for a tip tackle earlier in the move.

With Wasps threatening a second try, possession was lost inside the Exeter 22 and Ollie Woodburn counter-attacked menacingly. A few seconds and 80 metres later, it took a superb Thomas Young turnover, a metre from his own line, to avert an almost certain score.

After absorbing several minutes of Exeter pressure, the home side counter-attacked in thrilling fashion and eventually sent Josh Bassett over in the left corner only for the TMO to rule Jimmy Gopperth’s final pass forward.

Will Chudley’s incisive break then opened up Wasps' defence and when play moved back across the field Dave Ewers forced his way over, only for Cipriani to prevent him from grounding the ball. Exeter won the ensuing scrum, but Dan Robson’s brave tackle stopped Sam Hill just short of the line and a penalty went Wasps’ way.

This left the hosts defending a seven-point interval advantage, but they were hit by a quartet of third-quarter injury blows.

Cipriani was the first to limp off followed by shoulder victim Jack Willis. Worse soon followed, as Willis's replacement at No.6, Alex Rieder, who was making his first appearance since round three when he dislocated his shoulder, was stretchered off with a serious leg injury.

After a lengthy delay, an Exeter offside gave Gopperth a simple kick to stretch the lead to 10-0, after which Marcus Watson's ankle twist brought Christian Wade into the action. 

Recently-arrived Ashley Johnson was then shown a yellow card for a dangerous clear-out at a ruck, and the visitors took immediate advantage to send Luke Cowan-Dickie over from close range. Gareth Steenson's conversion narrowed the gap to three points with 17 minutes remaining.

Man-of-the-match Young’s searing burst stretched the visitors’ defence, but the dangerous movement ended with a knock-on just inside the visitors' 22. Johnson returned from the bin with the score unchanged, and nine minutes left on the clock.

With just over four minutes to play, a sustained period of Wasps possession earned a penalty 35 metres out which Gopperth translated into three points.

This gave Wasps a 13-7 advantage which they protected through a tense finale with some determined and well-organised defence.

Wasps Line ups

  1. Simon McIntyre
  2. Tom Cruse
  3. Martin Moore
  4. James Gaskell
  5. Kearnan Myall
  6. Jack Willis
  7. Thomas Young
  8. Guy Thompson
  9. Dan Robson
  10. Danny Cipriani
  11. Josh Bassett
  12. Jimmy Gopperth
  13. Gabiriele Lovobalavu
  14. Marcus Watson
  15. Willie Le Roux
  16. Ashley Johnson
  17. Matt Mullan
  18. Jake Cooper-Woolley
  19. Will Rowlands
  20. Alex Rieder
  21. Joe Simpson
  22. Brendan Macken
  23. Christian Wade

Exeter Chiefs Line ups

  1. Alec Hepburn
  2. Luke Cowan-Dickie
  3. Tomas Francis
  4. Mitch Lees
  5. Jonny Hill
  6. Dave Ewers
  7. Julian Salvi
  8. Don Armand
  9. Will Chudley
  10. Gareth Steenson
  11. Olly Woodburn
  12. Sam Hill
  13. Ollie Devoto
  14. Santiago Cordero
  15. Lachie Turner
  16. Jack Innard
  17. Ben Moon
  18. Greg Holmes
  19. Sam Skinner
  20. Thomas Waldrom
  21. Stuart Townsend
  22. Joe Simmonds
  23. Ian Whitten