Exeter hold off Wasps fightback
September 14, 2013
Exeter's Tom James is mobbed after scoring at Sandy Park
© Getty Images
Exeter Chiefs opened their account in this season's Aviva Premiership with a 30-26 victory over London Wasps at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Devon side, who suffered their largest Premiership defeat at Northampton Saints last time out, went inside at the break with a 16-12 lead after wing Tom James crossed for the only try of the opening 40 minutes. Fly-half Gareth Steenson converted and added three penalties while Andy Goode replied with four for Wasps.
The Chiefs scored two further tries in the second half through flanker James Scaysbrook and a second from James, converted by Steenson. But Wasps kept battling with tries from wing Christian Wade and flanker Ashley Johnson both converted by Goode.
England Under-20 international Sam Hill made his Premiership debut for Exeter as the solitary change so Ian Whitten moved to the right wing to replace Matt Jess who was on bench duty.
Centre Chris Bell returned to lead the Wasps, with Josh Bassett replacing England wing Tom Varndell, who is facing surgery having ruptured his biceps in training, while Ashley Johnson returned to the back row.
Exeter conceded two penalties at the breakdown in the opening 90 seconds and the visitors kicked the first - just inside their own half - to touch but Goode stepped up to slot the second between the posts from 30 metres.
After another two penalties in the next five minutes for the same offense, referee Martin Fox warned Chiefs' new skipper Dean Mumm about the persistent infringement, and Goode again found his target.
The Chiefs reduced the arrears after 12 minutes when Steenson landed a 30-metre kick. That sparked life into the Exeter play as they tested the Wasps defence before wing Tom James breached the line and Steenson converted.
Goode missed his next penalty attempt - from just inside the Chiefs half and in front of the posts - after Mumm was penalised for tugging Wasps' full back Andrea Masi. But Goode made no mistake minutes later when Exeter stood up at the scrum.
Steenson made three from three with his second penalty on the half-hour mark followed by a third five minutes later when Wasps were reduced to 14 men after Johnson was yellow carded for a high tackle on scrum half Haydn Thomas.
The visitors sought to reduce the arrears before the break as Goode lined-up his fifth attempt from close to the right touchline, but it was the Chiefs who had a 16-12 lead as the players headed towards the dressing rooms.
Ten minutes after the restart, full-back Phil Dollman chipped ahead and an error by wing Christian Wade allowed Thomas to pick up and feed flanker Scaysbrook who barged his way over the line for the Chiefs' second try, which Steenson converted.
A tap penalty from Thomas was fed across the field to James, who skirted round the first defenders into space before racing the 50 metres to the line for his second touchdown, which Steenson converted at the start of the final quarter.
Wasps were quickly back up the other end and wing Wade found a gap in the Chiefs defence to run round and touchdown behind the posts for the visitors' only try, which Goode converted to reduce the arrears to 11 points.
The visitors continued to test the Chiefs defence in the closing minutes and a driving maul saw Johnson get the touchdown, converted by Goode, to secure a losing bonus point for Wasps with a couple of minutes left to play.
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter weas relieved his side rediscovered their composure before it was too late. "You can talk at length about what you get right or wrong but sometimes (you need) to just have the character to push through to win under a little bit of pressure, which we were at times because the scores were tight at half-time," he said.
"I think that tactically in the first 20 minutes we controlled territory and possession; our actual phase play improved and we started to get some tempo into the game, but then to concede two tries is tough. But we have won," Baxter added.
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young praised his bench players who came on to salvage the visitors' second losing bonus point in as many games.""We are a little disappointed with one or two of the tackles we fell off but in fairness you have to put your hand up sometimes and say that on occasions their attack stretched us so we are a little disappointed in some of the points we gave away.
"We have had two bonus-point losses, at one stage today even the bonus-point loss looked unlikely, but we came back to sneak a bonus point at the end."
Wasps' Andrea Masi looks to force an opening in the Exeter defence © Getty Images
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