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In wet, windy conditions, a late Wasps rally came close to snatching a much-needed win, but they were unable to see off an Exeter side for whom the 100% percent kicking rate of Ignacio Mieres brought home the points.
Exeter began in adventurous fashion, when they ran the ball from their 22 after gathering the kickoff. They soon lost possession, and Elliot Daly set off on a diagonal run towards the left corner. He was stopped a few metres short, the ball was worked back inside and the defence was penalised, around 15 metres in from touch. Nick Robinson made no mistake, with a well-struck kick, to give his side an encouraging start.
Four minutes later, the flyhalf missed a much easier kick, after a promising buildup, in which Elliot Daly once again showed his ability to wriggle through a gap, before the defence was forced into a penalty. Wasps immediately threatened, after a high kick caused problems for the visitors, but a promising situation came to nothing, when they were penalised at the breakdown inside the Exeter 22. Another well-placed Robinson kick forced a knockon, just outside the 22, but a strong Exeter scrum sent Wasps backwards, and Wasps were penalised for going off their feet at the breakdown.
The long penalty by Mieres, helped by the strong wind at his back, found touch near the corner to give Exeter their first attacking position after thirteen minutes. They won the lineout, and several phases of play took them close to the line, before they won a penalty a few metres to the left of the posts.
Within a minute, Nic Berry charged down an Exeter clearance, inside the 22, but he was just unable to reach the ball before it crossed the dead ball line. The next threat came when an Exeter throw in to a lineout near their 22 went too far. Tom Lindsay gathered the bouncing ball at pace, and made good ground. The ball was recycled quickly, but smart work at the breakdown won a turnover.
Wasps were then forced into a replacement, when Joe Simpson came on for Nic Berry, who’d taken a heavy knock in the attack which followed Lindsay’s run. Wasps immediately conceded a penalty on halfway, and Mieres sent a long-range wind-assisted effort between the posts, to give his side a 6-3 lead, after 23 minutes, as the rain, which had been intermittent since the start, became heavier.
Four minutes later, the Wasps pack produced an excellent scrum which yielded a penalty, just inside the Exeter half. Elliot Daly stepped up to take the kick, but sent it just to the left of the posts.
A well-placed kick by Dom Waldouck bounced awkwardly, between Matt Jess and Phil Dollman. Jess finally gathered, but was engulfed by the chasers, just outside his 22, only for Wasps to be penalised for going off their feet at the breakdown.
With the conditions showing no signs of improving, both sides were now relying heavily on a kicking game. After Wasps failed to find touch with a penalty to the corner, Exeter applied the pressure at a scrum, and Wasps were penalised 35 metres out. Mieres was on target, to stretch the lead to 9-3, as the game went into injury time at the break. Straight from the restart, Wasps mounted another strong attack, but the greasy ball was again lost in contact, 10 metres from the line, and Exeter were able to play out the closing moments of the half.
Wasps made another replacement at the start of the second half, with Simon McIntyre coming on for Ben Broster. Four minutes after the break, Mieres landed his fourth penalty, from a few metres inside the Wasps half, to give the visitors an ominous looking nine-point lead. Wasps clawed back three of those points with a Robinson penalty for a scrummaging offence, inside their 22, but the visitors restored their nine-point advantage almost immediately, with a fifth penalty from Mieres following another offence at the breakdown.
After a Hugo Southwell kick was charged down, and Exeter threatened, Wasps made a triple substitution, with Rob Webber, Tim Payne and Joe Launchbury replacing Tom Lindsay, Zak Taulafo and Ed O’Donoghue. Launchbury immediately put in a crunching tackle to release the ball, Payne hacked on, and Wasps almost forced their way over the line. They were awarded a scrum, from which a penalty ensued, and Robinson made no mistake with the straightforward penalty.
Wasps now really stepped up their efforts, and produced their best period of play of the half, with both Zak Taulafo and Joe Launchbury going close before yet another penalty was awarded, and Robinson landed his fourth successful kick, to bring Wasps to within three points, eleven minutes from time.
Wasps then squandered two excellent opportunities to make good ground. First, Robinson failed to find touch with a penalty to the corner. Then, after he did make a good touch in the opposite corner, Wasps lost their own lineout.
It then seemed that Wasps had created a chance on the right, following an arcing run by Daly, but Paul Emerick was stopped just short. With under two minutes left, continued Wasps pressure forced a kickable penalty, which would have levelled the scores. Instead, they opted to take another scrum, but were then penalised, enabling Exeter to clear their lines. They won the lineout, and played the clock down, to condemn Wasps to a bitterly disappointing defeat.
Next Friday, London Wasps travel to Sale Sharks. Their next home game is against London Irish, on Saturday, March the 3rd.
15 Hugo Southwell 14 Tom Prydie 13 Elliot Daly 12 Dom Waldouck 11 Richard Haughton 10 Nick Robinson 9 Nic Berry 1 Zak Taulafo 2 Tom Lindsay 3 Ben Broster 4 Ed O'Donoghue 5 Marco Wentzel 6 Richard Birkett 7 Jonathan Poff 8 Billy Vunipola
16 Rob Webber 17 Tim Payne 18 Simon McIntyre 19 Joe Launchbury 20 Sam Jones 21 Joe Simpson 22 Ryan Davis23 Paul Emerick
15 Phil Dollman 14 Gonzalo Camacho 13 Nic Sestaret 12 Jason Shoemark 11 Matt Jess 10 Ignacio Mieres 9 Haydn Thomas 1 Hoani Tui 2 Neil Clark 3 Craig Mitchell 4 Tom Hayes (capt) 5 Ally Muldowney 6 Tom Johnson 7 James Scaysbrook 8 Richard Baxter
16 Chris Whitehead 17 Chris Budgen 18 John Andress 19 James Phillips 20 Ben White 21 Kevin Barrett 22 Gareth Steenson 23 Bryan Rennie