Exeter 19-26 Wasps: Premiership leaders stunned as visitors fight back from 12-0 down to claim first win at Sandy Park and banish relegation fears
- Exeter led 12-0 after half an hour through tries by Jack Nowell and Nic White
- But Willie Le Roux, Juan de Jongh and Marcus Watson replied in eight minutes
- Zurabi Zhvania went over to secure the bonus point for Wasps after the break
Exeter suffered their first home Gallagher Premiership defeat since February last year as Wasps claimed a shock away victory at the runaway leaders.
Rob Baxter’s Chiefs dominated the first half hour, but couldn’t find a way past Wasps’ power and clinical edge as the visitors claimed a bonus-point success.
England star Jack Nowell – who sported a new sponsored scrum cap which featured multiple logos for this encounter – gave Exeter the lead and Nic White helped make it 12-0.
Wasps moved up to fifth place in the table with a brilliant bonus-point victory on Sunday
Exeter: Cordero (Whitten 18); Nowell (Hill 63), Slade, Devoto, Woodburn; Simmonds, White (Maunder); Moon (Hepburn 49), Cowan-Dickie (Yeandle 49), Francis (Williams 49), Lonsdale, Atkins, Ewers (Capstick 63), Armand, Kvesic
Replacement not used: Salmon
Tries: Nowell 7, White 22, Yeandle 69
Con: Simmonds 22, 70
Wasps: Le Roux; Watson, Daly, Lovobalavu, Bassett (De Jongh 35-41); Sopoaga, Simpson; Zhvania (McIntyre 63), Cruse (Johnson 10), Cooper-Wooley (Brookes 45), Launchbury (Morris 71), Gaskell (Rowlands 58), Shields, Carr, Hughes
Replacements not used: Hampson, Miller
Tries: Le Roux 31, De Jongh 36, Watson 41, Zhvania 61
Con: Daly 33, Sopoaga 38, 41
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU)
But after that the hosts weren’t quite themselves and Wasps came back from a quiet start to score four tries with No 8 Nathan Hughes producing an impressive display.
Away scores came from Willie Le Roux, Juan De Jongh, Marcus Watson, and a crucial second-half effort from Zurabi Zhvania. Exeter pushed hard late on and Jack Yeandle got one back, but it was not enough. Sandy Park was full to bursting despite a bitterly cold and windy afternoon.
The conditions made for a scrappy opening and the first few scrums were a mess. With the stiff breeze causing trouble for both sides, it was no surprise to see Elliot Daly kick the ball dead.
From there, Exeter struck. Henry Slade put a grubber kick through and Nowell pounced as the Wasps defence dithered.
The England wing collected and beat Le Roux to score in the corner. Joe Simmonds’ conversion was inch perfect in terms of line, but it was stopped short of the posts by the wind in unfortunate fashion. Still, it was all Exeter as Slade found Nowell again with a basketball-style pass.
The only downside for the Chiefs was an injury to Santiago Cordero which forced Nowell to move to full-back. A reshuffle failed to stop the home side from adding a second try as Wasps lost hooker Tom Cruse to injury. White was the scorer, but it was the scrum-half’s forwards who did all the hard work.
Wasps had to withstand a late onslaught to secure their first win in nine visits to Sandy Park
This time Simmonds converted. To that point Wasps hadn’t got going, but they came close to a try when a breakaway effort saw Le Roux find Watson.
The wing flew to the corner, but was tackled into touch by Olly Woodburn and TMO David Rose rightly ruled out the score. Wasps weren’t to be denied a second time and out of nowhere they again countered impressively to score three tries in the last nine minutes of the first half It meant that surprisingly, they went to the break ahead. First, Daly did brilliantly to lead the charge and freed Watson.
This time he passed to Le Roux who had an easy finish and Daly converted. Next Hughes picked up from the back of the scrum, charged forward, and temporary substitute back De Jongh was the beneficiary as he finished well under pressure. Lima Sopoaga curled the conversion between the posts in fine fashion.
All of a sudden Exeter were flailing and Hughes again picked up from a scrum – kicked through – and Watson pounced with Woodburn all at sea. Sopoaga’s conversion made it 21-12 at the break. Nowell suffered an ankle injury scare at the start of the second half, but Wasps were now a far more confident side.
Wasps had led 12-0 after half an hour after tries from Jack Nowell (above) and Nic White
After a slow start Daly was revitalised in attack and Hughes’ presence up front was providing his team with a solid platform.
The No 8 had what would have been a bonus point try ruled out for double movement, but it was now Exeter doing the chasing. Zhvania then put the game to bed with Wasps’ fourth and a remarkable try in which he exchanged a one-two with centre Gabriele Lovobalavu and reached for the line.
The loosehead’s stylish celebration showed the importance of the score and he was then instantly replaced. Sopoaga missed the conversion.
Exeter grabbed one back through replacement hooker Yeandle despite Nowell eventually leaving the field and they then laid siege to the Wasps’ line in the final few minutes. It was a thrilling finale, but the men in white held out.
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