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Wasps faded after the break and were second best to an Exeter side which based its win on its powerful forwards, aided by a high penalty count wihch kept the pressure on the visitors throughout.
Exeter dominated the opening exchanges after Wasps conceded a free kick at the first scrum. After taking a quick tap, the home side went through phase after phase in a passage of play which lasted nearly three minutes before Wasps won a crucial turnover near their 22. The ball was moved quickly out to Christian Wade, who went racing away down the right wing. He had only Luke Arscott to beat, and stepped inside the fullback, only to be stopped by a desperate ankle tap just outside the 22. Exeter were immediately penalised at the breakdown and Ryan Davis landed the kick to give Wasps the early lead.
The men in Black and Gold came close to stretching their advantage when Jonathan Poff exploded away from a breakdown to take play deep into the home 22, but the defence managed to get back and stop the move with Wasps knocking on in the shadow of the posts.
A charge by Richard Birkett then set up another dangerous Wasps attack with Tom Varndell being stopped a few yards short, but Wasps took too long to set up the next phase and again knocked on with the defence stretched.
The home side then began to find their rhythm, assisted by a number of penalties against Wasps to take play deep into their 22. The referee lost his patience was Wasps defended a strong rolling maul, and showed Richard Birkett a yellow card with fifteen minutes of the half to play. Exeter twice turned down kickable penalties and the continued pressure eventually told when Sireli Naqeveluki used his power in midfield to burst through a tackle and send flanker Tom Johnson over near the posts. Flyhalf Ignacio Mieres scuffed his conversion attempt badly.
Almost from the restart Exeter were penalised for crossing 15 metres inside their half, and in front of the posts. Davis made no mistake with the kick to put Wasps back in front, nine minutes before the break.
Inside the final minute of the half, the Wasps scrum was put under enormous pressure, conceding another penalty near their own line. Exeter again turned down the chance of three points. They went for the corner, won the lineout, and launched another sustained attack, but the defence held firm and the half ended when Jason Shoemark was forced into touch a few metres out, on the opposite side of the field. This left Wasps a single point ahead at the break.
Early in the second half, a promising move by Wasps took them into the Exeter half Nic Berry became isolated at the breakdown, and was penalised for not releasing. He was made to pay for his error as Mieres thumped a massive penalty over from a few metres inside his own half, to put his side back in front. Tim Payne was then replaced by Jeremy Castex, in the first Wasps substitution of the afternoon.
Christian Wade then gave the crowd a tantalising glimpse of his speed and nifty footwork, as he attacked down the right, doing well too stay infield and remain on his feet.
Exeter stretched their lead with a simple penalty from Mieres after Wasps were caught offside in front of their posts. There was a touch of good fortune in the score, as it came after Haydn Thomas had darted through a gap, when the referee inadvertently got in the way of Rob Webber who had been well placed to stop the scrumhalf.
A long diagonal kick by flanker James Scaysbrook then forced Tom Varndell to go back to near his line, to gather the ball. He beat one of the chasers, but was then caught in possession and penalised for not releasing. Exeter again went for the corner, won the lineout and applied the further pressure, eventually forcing another penalty. This time, they chose to go for the posts, and replacement flyhalf Gareth Steenson was on targe to take his side eight points clear, as the game entered the final quarter.
Simon McIntyre replaced Bob Baker, to make his Wasps debut, but within a minute of his appearance, the home side had stretched their lead. Left-winger Matt Jess almost went over in the corner, the ball was moved back infield, and after several thrusts at the line, replacement prop Chris Budgen forced his way over from close range. Steenson’s conversion put his side out of reach at 21-6, with a quarter of an hour left.
Joe Burton, Jack Wallace and Jonah Holmes replaced Marco Wentzel, Richard Haughton and Nic Berry, but Exeter almost added a third try moments the restart.
Elliot Daly took Chris Bell’s place in the centre, but he had no chance to show his attacking skills, as Exeter continued to enjoy domination keeping Wasps pinned deep inside their own 22. Tom Lindsay and Matt Everard replaced Rob Webber and Joe Launchbury respectively.
Wasps snatched a late consolation try, which was started by a powerful run from Riki Flutey. He was supported well by Ryan Davis, and he sent Jack Wallace in from 40 metres, for a fine try which Davis was unable to convert.
There was not enough time for Wasps to claim a bonus point, and the final whistle came after they knocked on at the breakdown, after McIntyre’s powerful run had given them a chance to make a final attack.
Wasps continue their travels next weekend, when they visit Newcastle Falcons next weekend.
The following Sunday, they are back on home territory, to take on Bath.
15 Richard Haughton 14 Tom Varndell 13 Chris Bell 12 Riki Flutey 11 Christian Wade 10 Ryan Davis 9 Nic Berry 1 Tim Payne 2 Rob Webber (c) 3 Bob Baker 4 Richard Birkett 5 Marco Wentzel 6 Joe Launchbury 7 Jonathan Poff 8 Ross Filipo
16 Tom Lindsay 17 Jeremy Castex 18 Simon McIntyre 19 Joe Burton 20 Matt Everard 21 Jonah Holmes 22 Elliot Daly 23 Jack Wallace
15 Luke Arscott 14 Nic Sestaret 13 Sireli Naqelevuki 12 Jason Shoemark 11 Matt Jess 10 Ignacio Mieres 9 Haydn Thomas 1 Brett Sturgess 2 Chris Whitehead 3 Hoani Tui 4 Tom Hayes (capt) 5 Peter Short 6 Tom Johnson 7 James Scaysbrook 8 Richard Baxter
16 Neil Clark 17 Ben Moon 18 Chris Budgen 19 Aly Muldowney 20 Ben White 21 Kevin Barrett 22 Gareth Steenson 23 Bryan Rennie