England hopeful snatches late try as Wasps edge to narrow victory over Exeter
The home side were leading 26-15 nine minutes from time and thought they had scored the match-sealing try through centre Tom Hendrickson.
A long review concluded that he had lost the ball over the line and it stirred Wasps who had played fitfully until then.
Wasps had started strongly and were ahead within five minutes when Tom Cruse broke the line and Charlie Atkinson’s long pass gave Odogwu room on the right, but they appeared surprised by opponents who played more like Harlequins than Exeter.
The Chiefs were without 18 players who were either injured or on international duty and they were so stretched that the forwards on their bench were three props and two hookers.
Armed with a relatively light and mobile pack, Exeter widened the point of attack, brought their two wings into midfield and played at a tempo Wasps struggled to keep up with.
It was far removed from Exeter’s controlled possession game and it yielded them a 21-8 interval lead.
Tom O’Flaherty, who invariably beat the first tackler with his quick footwork, scored their opening try after a wave of attacks stretched the defence to breaking point.
Wasps regained the lead with a Jimmy Gopperth penalty, but the rest of the half belonged to Exeter.
O’Flaherty claimed the restart, for the second time in the match, and flanker Lewis Pearson freewheeled through a back-pedalling defence to touch down.
Santiago Grondona had earlier had a try disallowed having been held up over the line, but the Argentina number eight was an attacking whirlwind, blowing away defenders, and Exeter finished the opening half with another series of quickfire raids that ended with Jack Innard scoring in the corner.
Wasps were just as unresponsive after the break, caught out by Hendrickson’s weaving run after another bout of swift passing. Exeter kicked a penalty to touch and flanker Richard Capstick secured their try bonus point.
Wasps had only won at Sandy Park once in the Premiership and lacked a controlling influence. Alfie Barbeary was subdued after his return from England training, Brad Shields succumbed to injury and Malakai Fekitoa took 50 minutes to warm up.
Fekitoa’s outside break led to Joe Launchbury’s first try since the second row’s return from injury. Wasps started to show some interest and laid siege to the Exeter line, fortified by five penalties in as many minutes.
They lacked the zip of their opponents and looked to be collapsing under the weight of their own mediocrity before Hendrickson’s mistake gave them a reprieve.
Barbeary scored from a maul two minutes from time and Wasps went straight back on to the attack. The countdown clock had been at zero for six minutes when Exeter’s defiant defence cracked and Odogwu clinched a fortunate victory.
Joe Simmonds converted three of Exeter’s four tries but one miss ultimately proved vital.
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