Wasps come off second-best in ten-try thriller
Date: 8 Sep 2018
Wasps first home game of the season ended in defeat against last season’s table-toppers. 24-21 ahead at the break, with tries from Elliot Daly, Josh Bassett and Nathan Hughes, Wasps conceded two converted tries early in the second half, to go eleven points down. Dan Robson’s try, 11 minutes from time, set up a thrilling climax, but the visitors took control of the closing minutes and a last-minute try meant Dai Young’s men had to make do with a losing bonus point.
Wasps went ahead in the fourth minute, through a superb individual try by Elliot Daly. The full-back gathered the ball in midfield, dummied an outside pass to wrong-foot the defence, then cut inside to accelerate away and go over from 25 metres. Billy Searle converted.
The visitors responded on eleven minutes, when the ball was spun out wide to the right and Santiago Cordero rolled over in the corner. Gareth Steenson’s conversion levelled the scores.
Wasps were back in front within a minute after Christian Wade leapt high to gather the restart. The ball was moved infield and Searle’s precision chip bounced perfectly for Josh Bassett, who went over for another fine try. The fly-half was again on target with the conversion.
Seven minutes later, the visitors drew level in familiar fashion. A penalty to the corner, a driving lineout and a try, with Sam Simmonds the man grounding the ball. Steenson added the conversion. Fifteen minutes before halftime, after a characteristic controlled build-up, Exeter went ahead for the first time, when Henry Slade slid through a midfield gap and outpaced the defence with a diagonal run to the right corner. Steenson landed another tricky conversion, to give his side a 21-14 advantage.
Exeter came close to a bonus point try, with another driving lineout, this time in the left corner. Wasps stopped the drive just short, and the secondary surge was held up over the line. To the delight of the crowd, a powerful Wasps scrum yielded a penalty and the pressure was relieved. A minute later, another scrum penalty was won, just inside the Exeter half and Searle landed the penalty. He then produced a glorious 30-metre break from the restart. He had Dan Robson on his inside but was unable to get his pass away.
Two minutes before the break, The Men in Black and Gold reclaimed the lead, when Nathan Hughes powered his way over from close range. Searle converted to make the halftime score 24-21, after 40 minutes of quality rugby, played at a breathless pace.
With four minutes of the second half played, debutant Brad Shields went down after a clash of heads and was forced to leave the field. He was replaced by Ashley Johnson. Exeter then secured their bonus point and went back in front, when Sam Simmonds scored his second try, again from a driving lineout. Steenson converted from the left touchline, to make the score 28-24.
Exeter extended their lead when Slade intercepted Searle’s pass just inside his own half. With Wade and Daly in hot pursuit, he had enough pace to reach the line for his second try, which Steenson converted. Hughes then limped off, to be replaced by James Gaskell. On 54 minutes, Lima Sopoaga came on for his Wasps debut, as the home side made their first batch of tactical substitutions.
The game was now being played at a much slower pace than in the first half, with most of the action taking place between the 22-metre lines. One Wasps attack almost created a chance inside the 22, but Daly’s pass was deflected into Exeter hands, and Armand was able to break away to halfway.
With eleven minutes left, Wasps secured a bonus point of their own, when Dan Robson wriggled over, after the forwards had rumbled their way to the line. Sopoaga converted, to narrow the gap to four points. With the visitors building up pressure just outside the Wasps 22, replacement Zurabi Zhvania got a boot to the ball, as it emerged from a ruck, to take play deep into the Exeter half. With steady rain now falling, a thrilling Wasps attack down the right then ended in a knock-on, just outside the 22.
The final minutes saw Exeter displaying their renowned ability to control the ball through phase after phase, and two minutes of sustained pressure ended with Don Armand crashing over near the posts, to restrict Wasps to a single bonus point. Steenson’s conversion was the final act of a thrilling encounter.
Wasps: Elliot Daly, Christian Wade, Juan De Jongh, Gaby Lovobalavu, Josh Bassett, Billy Searle, Dan Robson, Ben Harris, Tommy Taylor, Kieran Brookes, Joe Launchbury (c), Will Rowlands, Brad Shields, Joe Atkinson, Nathan Hughes.
Replacements: Tom Cruse, Zurabi Zhvania, Will Stuart, James Gaskell, Ashley Johnson, Joe Simpson, Lima Sopoaga, Rob Miller.
Exeter Chiefs: Phil Dollman, Ian Whitten, Henry Slade, Ollie Devoto, Santiago Cordero, Gareth Steenson, Stuart Townsend, Alec Hepburn, Jack Yeandle (c), Tomas Francis, Ollie Atkins, Sam Skinner, Dom Armand, Matt Kvesic, Sam Simmonds
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Greg Holmes, Harry Williams, Toby Salmon, Sean Lonsdale, Jack Maunder, Joe Simmonds, Alex Cuthbert
Referee: Christophe Ridley
Tries: Daly, Bassett, Hughes, Robson
Conversions: Searle (3), Sopoaga
Tries: Cordero, Simmonds (2), Slade (2), Armand
Conversions: Steenson (6)
Half-time: 24 - 21