Full-time report: Chiefs 30 Wasps 26
Exeter Chiefs 30 London Wasps 26
Exeter Chiefs secured their first win of the Premiership season – but they were made to work for it by London Wasps at Sandy Park.
Chiefs were ahead and cruising midway through the second half when Wasps hit back with two tries to come within four points of their hosts. Thankfully, the clock then played a blinder and prevented what would have been a shock comeback for the visitors.
Chiefs had not quite get the score their first-half dominance perhaps deserved, but they were always kept in reach by the boot of London Wasps fly-half Andy Goode.
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Goode kicked all 12 of Wasps’ first-half points from the penalty tee as Chiefs looked to hit back from their opening day defeat at Northampton.
The former England fly-half slotted twice early on to put Wasps 6-0 ahead but Gareth Steenson got the home side on the board with a penalty after 12 minutes and from then on they seemed to settle. Tom James then found himself with a two-man overlap on the right side of a scrambled Wasps defence but chose to go alone and crossed for the opening Chiefs try at Sandy Park this season.
Steenson added the extras, and from then on both sides struggled to find a rhythm as the opposing tens traded two penalties each, the final one from Goode on the stroke of half-time, as Chiefs went in 16-12 ahead.
It was probably a fair reflection of the half, but Chiefs would have been looking to turn greater possession into more dominance on the board in the second 40.
It didn’t happen straight away, but following ten or so pretty attritional minutes, Chiefs effected a shift in momentum. It came from one of those nondescript passages of play which end with a hacked kick upfield, forcing defenders to retreat and chase.
That the retreater was flying Wasps wing Christian Wade should have helped them deal with it swiftly, but having taken the ball he was duly knocked off it by chasing Chiefs and Haydn Thomas was in the right place to pick it up. He looked around, and eventually spotted James Scaysbrook running at pace.
A simple pass was all it took and Scaysbrook was able to crash over unopposed. Steenson added the extras and Chiefs were 23-12 ahead.
The try appeared to shift the momentum firmly in Chiefs’ favour and from then on they controlled the game admirably. Thomas again found himself racing towards the Wasps line with only the full-back Andrea Masi ahead of him, but this time there was no marauding back-rower at his shoulder.
The home side soon extended their lead, though, when a quick tap penalty by Thomas found its way to James in the centre of the field and he spotted a gap few else inside Sandy Park would have.
And he just kept going until he crossed the try line – when he did come to a halt he was mobbed by his team-mates and praised to the rafters by his new home crowd. Steenson’s conversion made the scoreline a much more palatable 30-12 in Chiefs’ favour.
There was still time for Wade to demonstrate his acceleration, as he ghosted past potential tackles from both Tom Johnson and Steenson too close to the Chiefs’ line to mean anything other than a Wasps try under the posts. Goode again converted to make in 30-19 and give the visitors cause for hope, if not expectation.
That hope grew when, with five minutes remaining, they won a penalty inside the Chiefs 22 and kicked for the corner, with Johnson eventually being named as the player who carried the ball over following a maul. When Goode again kicked his conversion Wasps were within four points.
But they had run out of time to complete a surprise comeback, and Chiefs were able to see out a welcome win.