September 6 2016
Wasps brought an end to their run of five years without an opening day victory with a nail-biting win over Exeter Chiefs, so often their nemesis in the past.
They earned their win through a gutsy second-half fightback in which they scored 17 points, after trailing 20-8. They only went ahead deep into the final quarter when Jimmy Gopperth converted MOTM Tommy Taylor’s debut try. Gopperth’s 78th minute penalty made the final score 25-20.
Exeter enjoyed the early possession after gathering Dan Robson’s clearance just inside the Wasps half. They won a breakdown penalty and found touch just inside the Wasps 22. The lineout yielded another penalty which took them up towards the right corner. They won possession and their well-controlled drive ended with Thomas Waldrom going over for a try with just over three minutes gone. Henry Slade added the extra points.
An excellent chase by Elliot Daly from Danny Cipriani’s high restart won Wasps a penalty a few metres from the line. They also chose to go for the corner. The forwards drove for the line, but were pushed into touch and the referee again penalised Exeter. This time, play came infield and Cipriani’s kick towards was Christian Wade was gathered, behind the line, by Henry Slade. Another penalty soon followed, but Tommy Taylor’s long throw missed its target and Exeter were able to clear.
After several minutes of controlled Wasps possession, Cipriani’s kick found touch on the full. The lineout, just inside the home half, resulted in an Exeter penalty and Slade’s kick stretched the lead to 10-0 after 14 minutes.
Another excellent chase from the restart forced an Exeter knock-on deep inside their 22. A penalty followed and Jimmy Gopperth made no mistake to put his side on the scoreboard.
Four minutes later, Wasps were penalised inside their 22 and Exeter went for the kick to the corner. This time excellent defence stopped the drive in its tracks. When Exeter moved the ball out to the backs, the defensive line again held firm until Olly Woodburn came off his wing to find space out on the left, only to lose the ball in contact with the unmarked James Short outside him.
After several phases of Exeter possession, the ball was turned over and Wasps broke away down the left where Jimmy Gopperth combined with Dan Robson. The scrum half was felled by a last-ditch tackle just inside the 22.
Nine minutes before the break, Wasps produced a scintillating try after Guy Thompson’s powerful run down the middle. He fed Dan Robson, who veered out to the left, before passing to Jimmy Gopperth, just outside the 22. He weaved inside then outside, to outflank the defence and go over in the corner. Gopperth’s conversion was narrowly off target.
Four minutes later, after Wasps lost possession as they tried to run the ball out of defence, They quickly won it back, but Josh Bassett's clearance was gathered out wide on the left, allowing Will Chudley to evade Sam Jones’s covering tackle and cross for their second try. Slade converted to take the score to 17-8. Almost immediately, Rob Miller came into the line following a scrum inside the Exeter half and sent a chip over the defence. Christian Wade set off in hot-pursuit and appeared to be winning the race to the ball, but it bounced into touch inside the Exeter 22 and 17-8 was how it stayed until the half-time whistle.
After Wasps conceded an early second-half penalty just inside the Exeter half, the visitors kept them pinned down in their own territory for nearly ten minutes before Slade extended their lead with a 51st-minute penalty from close range.
Wasps came up with a superb response two minutes later, when an attack that started deep inside their own half saw Christian Wade sent clear down the right. With one man to beat, he unselfishly passed inside to Dan Robson who went over between the posts. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion narrowed the gap to 20-15.
Wasps then produced another thrilling attack down the left after Danny Cipriani’s delicate chip behind the defence was gathered by Josh Bassett. Play came back infield and Joe Launchbury powered his way into the 22, but the defence was back in numbers and Wasps eventually lost the ball in contact.
Wasps were now beginning to play with fluency and confidence with debutants Matt Symons and Marty Moore amongst the second-half replacements. One of the biggest cheers of the afternoon came when Joe Simpson returned from the injury that saw him miss out on the Olympics, taking the place of Dan Robson as the game entered the final quarter. With 16 minutes left, Wasps sent a penalty to the right corner and produced an unstoppable drive which ended with Tommy Taylor touching down for a try on his Wasps debut. Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion gave his side the lead for the first time at 22-20.
Ten minutes from time, Christian Wade was unlucky to be caught offside after a kick ricocheted off Joe Simpson ten metres outside the Wasps 22. From near the left touchline Slade sent his penalty attempt narrowly wide.
Five minutes from time, a Wasps lineout drive powered its way deep into the Exeter 22, but the referee ruled that there had been an accidental offside and Exeter were awarded a scrum. They cleared downfield, but were penalised at the breakdown 12 metres short of halfway and six metres in from their left touchline. Jimmy Gopperth’s kick dropped over the bar to put Wasps 25-20 ahead with under two minutes to play. Wasps gathered the restart and the forwards controlled the ball through a series of phases to run the clock down before Joe Simpson gleefully thumped the ball into touch to give his side their first opening day victory since 2011.
Wasps Line ups
Exeter Chiefs Line ups