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A difficult season ended in a disappointing fashion, as Wasps went down to a final day defeat. After taking an early lead, Wasps played plenty of enterprising rugby, but a failure to take their chances, coupled with the familiar problem of turnovers and penalties meant that the game slipped away from them in the second half.
Wasps applied the early pressure after the home side failed to gather Dave Walder’s kickoff, but John Hart was unable to hang on to Nic Berry’s pass after the scrumhalf broke from a scrum, just outside the 22. Wasps were penalised at the scrum. When Exeter found their way into the Wasps half for the first time, they were awarded a penalty just outside the 22, but Ignacio Mieres hit the post with his kick. Joe Launchbury gathered the rebound and broke away down the right. When the ball went loose on halfway, Christian Wade got a boot to it and hacked downfield. It bounced into his arms and he broke clear down the right. He was stopped just short of the line but managed to roll over for his first Premiership try. Dave Walder’s kick was blown off target by the strong wind.
A fine run by Richard Haughton from inside his own 22, almost set up a second try for the winger, but Elliott Daly’s long kick bounced just short of touch and Wade was forced out by the defence. Then, another incisive attack saw Ben Jacobs break into the 22. He fed Haughton, who was unmarked outside him, but the fullback lost his footing, as he tried to step inside Luke Arscott, and lost control of the ball, agonisingly close to the line.
Nic Berry was the next to threaten the Exeter line as he stole down the unmarked blindside from a breakdown just outside the 22, but his infield pass couldn’t find a team-mate, and Exeter were able to gather and clear downfield.
Exeter finally had a scoring chance when Wasps were penalised at a scrum, just inside their own half right in the centre of the field, but Mieres sent his kick to the right of the posts. The flyhalf was eventually on target after 23 minutes, with a penalty from 37 metres. Wasps responded well after winning the restart, and the ball was worked out to Wade who beat several defenders before again slipping on the greasy surface.
The Wasps forwards then took control of the ball through a series of phases and hammered at the line with a series of drives before the determined defence forced a handling error. At the resultant scrum, Exeter forced Wasps backwards and a penalty gave them the chance to clear towards halfway. Moments later, Elliot Daly showed his running skills as he beat a series of defenders before finding Joe Launchbury in support. The flanker made his way into the 22, but possession was turned over and Exeter sent a long kick downfield. Haughton gathered the rolling ball a few metres from his line, but his poor clearance gave Exeter the chance to counterattack dangerously. They were awarded a penalty inside the Wasps 22, but opted for a scrum which produced another penalty. This time Mieres went for the posts and he judged the wind perfectly to send the ball between the posts and give his side the lead with 8 minutes of the half to play.
Three minutes before the break, Mieres sent a penalty from inside his 22 to within 15 metres of the Wasps line. Strong defence at the lineout sent Exeter back over the 22, but they controlled the ball through several phases and were eventually awarded a penalty, almost in front of the posts. With the clock showing zero, Mieres landed his third successful kick to give his side a 9-5 halftime lead.
Wasps thought they’d regained the lead within a minute of the restart, when Riki Flutey gathered a loose ball and fed Ben Jacobs, who cut inside and went over, only to be called back for a forward pass. Seconds later, a superb drop goal by Dave Walder from 35 metres brought Wasps back within a point. Wasps then had a glorious opportunity to score their second try, when the ball was moved out wide to the left where there were acres of space, but Riki Flutey’s pass went behind Elliot Daly, who was completely unmarked, just five metres from the line.
Wasps continued to look dangerous, but were thwarted by aggressive defence and counter-rucking, along with a series of penalties. It was from a penalty that Exeter were able to set up a position downfield. Their pressure forced another penalty, in the shadow of the posts, and they opted for a scrum.
Twelve minutes into the half, Wasps were forced to make a substitution, as Josh Lewsey came on for Dave Walder, who limped off, in his final appearance in black and gold.
A series of penalties followed, and Exeter continued to take the scrum option, before the pressure paid and flanker Tom Johnson forced his way over, from close range. Mieres landed the simple conversion, to put his side 8 points ahead, with 24 minutes left.
Zak Taulafo was the next Wasps replacement, coming on for Ben Broster. Wasps immediately had a chance to get back within bonus point range, when Elliot Daly attempted a long-range penalty. His kick had the distance, but went just wide of the posts.
Further Exeter pressure yielded another penalty, after they’d come close to a second try. Mieres went for the posts, but was off target, as Seb Jewell came on for Richard Haughton.
The Exeter pressure eventually paid off when they created an overlap on the left and winger Matt Jess went over in the corner. Mieres’s conversion attempt hit the post.
Inside the final eight minutes, Wasps made a quadruple substitution, with Joe Ward, Bob Baker, James Cannon and Joe Burton replacing Tom Lindsay, Tim Payne, Richard Birkett and John Hart.
Knowing that a losing bonus point would at least ensure that they finished above Exeter in the table, Wasps threw all they could into a final assault, but continued to concede turnovers and penalties. Their hopes were raised by a sizzling run by Christian Wade, two minutes from time, but he had no support, and Wasps eventually knocked on.
Exeter had not trouble in running down the clock, and the final score meant that they had ended their first season of Premiership rugby in a highly creditable eighth position, with Wasps disappointingly down in ninth.