Exeter Chiefs put headdress row aside to beat injury-hit Wasps
Exeter continued their march up the table with a hard-earned 27-23 victory over injury-ravaged Wasps who were outgunned but not outfought.
Wasps ruffled Exeter’s feathers in the build-up to the game by complaining about the Native American-style headdresses worn by some of the Chiefs’ supporters and calling on Premiership Rugby to outlaw them.
The ploy looked to have backfired badly when last season’s beaten finalists scored two tries in the opening 25 minutes and Wasps committed three handling errors in the Chiefs’ 22, but the home side decided to take on their opponents at their own game.
They twice turned down kickable penalties and kicked to touch. Elliott Stooke secured the first line-out and Exeter had no time to defend the maul as Wasps drove them over the line with hooker Dan Frost in possession.
Just before half-time, Harry Williams conceded a breakdown penalty which Jacob Umaga again kicked to within five metres of Exeter’s line. Vaea Fifita was the target and Exeter’s wrong-footed defence split, allowing Thomas Young to find the line without any support.
It looked a different story at the start of the second quarter when Exeter scored two tries in five minutes after Jimmy Gopperth had landed two penalties to Henry Slade’s one.
Wasps seemed to have survived Josh Bassett’s visit to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Tom Hendrickson when Dave Ewers cracked the defence and Jack Maunder freed Slade to score Exeter’s opening try in the 21st minute.
The visitors’ second try came after Stooke lost the ball near the Chiefs’ line. Wasps conceded a penalty and were caught out at the following line-out just inside their own half when Harvey Skinner and Stuart Hogg gave wing Facundo Cordero the space to round Marcus Watson.
Wasps had left Exeter struggling for inspiration with the speed of their line defence and they were forced to dig deep at the start of the second period when Exeter mounted a wave of attacks, fortified by five penalties which they either kicked to touch or tapped.
They found no way through, held up short eight times. Frost was sent to the sin-bin for his side’s persistent infringing and a Wasps’ water-carrier was ordered not to return to the field after sparking a melee by kicking the ball away to prevent Exeter taking a quick penalty.
England announce their squad for the autumn on Monday and forwards coach Richard Cockerill saw hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie hobble from the field after falling awkwardly on his left ankle. Gopperth gave Wasps a cushion with his third penalty against the run of play, but Sam Simmonds scored from a scrum after 61 minutes as Exeter rallied back.
Jonny Hill made up for three handling errors with an acrobatic try in the corner to regain the lead for Exeter who held on after Simmonds’s turnover on Francois Hougaard ended Wasps’ final attack.
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