Exeter too clinical for tired Wasps
April 21, 2013
Exeter Chiefs were at their free-flowing best against London Wasps
Enterprising Exeter claimed pole position in the race for the sixth and final Heineken Cup spot for next season after victory at Wasps.
Their bold commitment to running rugby was rewarded with tries for hooker Jack Yeandle, right-wing Jack Nowell, Damian Welch and scrum-half Haydn Thomas. Fly-half Gareth Steenson kicked their other 17 points.
Wasps, whose Heineken hopes were dashed as they suffered their seventh successive defeat in all competitions, responded with tries from right-wing Christian Wade, replacement Hugo Southwell and left-wing Tom Varndell. Two conversions from fly-half Stephen Jones, one from his replacement Tommy Bell and a penalty from full-back Elliot Daly.
The bonus point victory enabled Exeter to leapfrog Bath, who beat Leicester 24 hours earlier, into sixth place. Another win at home to Gloucester in their final league match on Saturday, May 4 - when Bath visit leaders Saracens - will ensure their place in Europe's premier club competition.
Wasps missed the chance to take the lead inside the first minute when Jones pulled a simple kick wide after Exeter No 8 Richard Baxter was penalised for not releasing. Four minutes later Exeter conceded a penalty two metres inside their own half and long-range specialist Daly landed a superbly-struck kick.
Exeter responded with Steenson racing out of his own half on a 50-metre run before offloading to Jason Shoemark, who was hauled down just short of the line. The visitors maintained the pressure until Baxter drove over, but, with the Exeter players claiming a try, television match official David Grashof ruled out the score.
Referee Wayne Barnes, who had been playing advantage following an earlier offence, brought play back for the penalty and Steenson kicked Exeter level.
The Devon side were throwing the ball around as they looked to strike from deep and lock Welch found himself with the space for a 35-metre run down the right. The Wasps defence closed him down but Exeter whipped the recycled ball through six pairs of hands to stretch the home side before Yeandle dived over in the left corner for their opening try, converted from the touchline by Steenson.
Rampant Exeter struck again six minutes later when flanker James Scaysbrook turned a short pass inside to release Nowell on a clear run for their second try, again converted by Steenson for a 17-3 lead.
Steenson then landed a 25th minute penalty after the Wasps scrum was penalised. Exeter were ripping Wasps apart and Dean Mumm charged through the middle but there was a little respite for the home side when scrum-half Haydn Thomas knocked on. Wasps capitalised by launching an attack which ended with Wade taking a pass from Chris Bell and his sheer pace took him past four defenders for his 11th Premiership try of the season.
Wasps then spurned a kickable penalty to go for touch and maintain the pressure but the gamble backfired as they turned over possession. When the Wasps scrum offended again Steenson suffered his first miss as his kick fell short.
The visitors struck a killer blow a minute into the second half when Welch exposed Wasps' repeated defensive failings, charging through the middle and running through a poor tackle from Daly to dive over behind the posts, with Steenson converting.
Exeter had Scaysbrook sin-binned after they conceded three penalties in quick succession to keep Wasps out.
The home side immediately made them pay as they moved the ball wide before Daly sent Southwell over in the right corner for a 49th minute try converted by Jones, but Exeter secured the bonus point when Thomas jinked his way over from close range after his forwards pressurised the Wasps line. Steenson converted and added a 65th minute penalty.
Varndell, the Premiership's leading try-scorer, raced in for his 15th of the campaign in the final minute, with Bell converting.
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter was once again delighted with the style of play that his side showed against a determined Wasps side that were chasing their own Heineken Cup ambitions.
"Physically it was a pretty tough game because we had such endeavour to carry the ball so much and play so much rugby," Baxter said. "Attacking-wise we got a lot right today. Whether they ran into a brick wall or found space, they got up again and carried again and that was the key to the game.
"Ultimately, that created enough momentum and enough space for us to find some holes, which we did very well. We showed an enthusiasm and an endeavour when we were points up which we have sometimes lacked and we kept at them."
Baxter's Wasps' counterpart Dai Young had to look on as his team slumped to their seventh consecutive defeat in all competitions. It means that they will return to the Amlin Challenge Cup again next season, something that didn't come as much surprise to the Welshman.
"If I was totally honest, it would have been great to be in the top six but I would be concerned because I don't think we're ready for Heineken Cup rugby," Young said. "The last home game last season, we were playing Newcastle to stay in this league and we have made strides this season but there's still work to be done.
"Come February, we had put ourselves in a pretty good position and I was accused of dampening expectations - but I was being realistic. It was evident that defensive lapses, people struggling to get into position and not making first-up tackles cost us."
Exeter Chiefs' dogged defence left London Wasps' much-vaunted attack few chances to attack © Getty Images
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