Don Armand won the Premiership title with the Exeter Chiefs, who needed a penalty in the second half of extra time to beat Wasps 23-20 in a dramatic final at Twickenham on Saturday MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Leading 20-17, Wasps conceded a 79th-minute penalty, which Exeter captain Gareth Steenson slotted to send the compelling final into extra time.
The Chiefs dominated the first half of extra time, but couldn't add to their tally. Then, with two minutes of extra time remaining, referee JP Doyle penalised Wasps at a scrum and Steenson again stepped up to slot the title-winning kick.
There was still time for one last restart, but Exeter secured possession and wound down the clock with a number of pick-and-go's before booting the ball into the stands to bring an end to the most amazing final.
While the Chiefs dominated every facet in the first half against an error-strewn Wasps outfit, they were unable to match or contain the speed that Wasps’ lethal backline injected into the game in the second stanza, which made for great viewing.
Exeter led 14-3 at the interval, thanks to tries by wing Jack Nowell and fullback Phil Dollman, with Nowell’s effort coming from a brilliant angled run off the back of a lineout.
Wasps looked lethargic in attack for the best part of the first half, but they struck back on the stroke of half-time after Danny Cipriani stepped off his left foot to put hooker Tommy Taylor into a gap. Two passes later and the Premiership's Player of the Season, Jimmy Gopperth, ran in for a self-converted try as Wasps trailed 14-10.
There was a complete turn-around in fortunes at the resumption. With Exeter starting to build momentum inside the 22, No 8 Nathan Hughes made a crucial turnover tackle and burst forward. After shrugging off three tacklers, Wasps went wide. Wing Christian Wade hacked the ball over the top and while Dollman tracked back well in defence for Exeter, the ball wickedly bounced away from him and into the hands centre Elliot Daly.
Gopperth added the extras and slotted a penalty soon after as Wasps opened a 20-14 advantage.
Exeter were much improved in the final quarter and through their forwards applied relentless pressure on the Wasps line. With 15 minutes remaining, Steenson closed the gap to three with a penalty to set up a frenetic finish.
Wasps were properly under the cosh as Exeter launched a 34-phase attack inside the 22. But it proved fruitless as Wasps held firm. The referee then awarded a penalty to Exeter, but they turned down the chance to level the scores and set a lineout instead. From the set-piece, they drove over the line, but the ball was held up. Then, from the subsequent scrum, Wasps snaffled the ball from a ruck and cleared their lines momentarily.
The Chiefs kept coming and with a minute remaining, Hughes went in to contest a ruck and conceded a penalty. Steenson then calmly stepped up to take the game into extra time.
Wasps – Tries: Jimmy Gopperth, Elliot Daly. Conversions: Gopperth (2). Penalties: Gopperth (2).
Exeter Chiefs – Tries: Jack Nowell, Phil Dollman. Conversions: Gareth Steenson (2). Penalties: Steenson (3).
Wasps – 15 Willie Le Roux, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Jimmy Gopperth, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Thomas Young, 6 James Haskell, 5 Matt Symons, 4 Joe Launchbury (c), 3 Phil Swainston, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Matt Mullan.
Subs: 16 Ashley Johnson, 17 Simon McIntyre, 18 Marty Moore, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Alapati Leiua, 23 Frank Halai.
Exeter Chiefs – 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Don Armand, 6 Kai Horstmann, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon.
Subs: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Carl Rimmer, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Michele Campagnaro.
Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images