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Dai Young revels in the drama as Wasps pip Exeter

Published 09/04/2016

Dai Young, Wasps' head coach, saw his side beat Exeter in dramatic fashion
Dai Young, Wasps' head coach, saw his side beat Exeter in dramatic fashion

Wasps boss Dai Young described his team's dramatic late European Champions Cup quarter-final victory over Exeter as "great theatre" after goalkicker Jimmy Gopperth held his nerve amid unbearable tension.

Fly-half Gopperth landed a nerveless match-winning conversion with the final kick of an epic Ricoh Arena clash as Wasps edged through 25-24 and secured a last-four place in top-flight European competition for the first time since 2007.

Wasps, despite trailing by 13 points midway through the second period, were not to be denied, with full-back Charles Piutau scoring two tries, including the last-minute effort that Gopperth converted, and wing Frank Halai also touching down.

"When they got two scores in front, I think most people probably felt the game was going to go away from us," Young said.

"We didn't panic at half-time. We felt if we just kept on playing and kept knocking the door, at some stage it would open for us.

"It would have been a lot better for the nerves if it wasn't 79 minutes - it would have been nicer if we started opening the doors at 29 minutes.

"It was great theatre at the end for the supporters. It's not a bad way to win, but not a great way to lose, so you have got to feel for Rob (Exeter head coach Rob Baxter). It was a great game that could have gone either way.

"Fair play to Jimmy. It wasn't an easy kick. I don't think many people in the stadium were watching it with both eyes open, that's for sure. I think it was going to the left a little bit, and I think half of Wasps blew it in!

"A semi-final in Europe can't be scoffed at. We are going to play another English team, which is going to be another battle for us, but we will worry about that when it comes."

Wasps skipper and England Grand Slam winner James Haskell added: "It was edge-of-the-seats stuff. I have had a few of those in my career, and they always seem to have gone against us, so it was great to see Jimmy kick it over.

"I did watch the kick, but I had my coat half over my face. As soon as the crowd started cheering, everyone just went mad.

"We have got a competitive squad, and it is just great to be into a semi-final. Not a lot of people gave us a hope in hell of getting out of that group, and we managed to do it. It's important that we carry that on."

Try machine Thomas Waldrom looked to have stung Wasps for a second time this season as Exeter built a commanding lead midway through the second period.

Waldrom, who scored a hat-trick of tries when Exeter beat Wasps in an Aviva Premiership encounter four months ago, struck with two more touchdowns, while substitute prop Harry Williams also scored, with skipper Gareth Steenson kicking all three conversions before adding a penalty.

But it was not to be for the Chiefs, even if they remain firmly on course for this season's Premiership title play-offs, where their opponents next month could conceivably be Wasps again.

Baxter said: "What we have got to be careful of is spending a lot of time dissecting all the little pieces, when the reality is that if that last kick misses or we force an error in the last passage of play, we win, we are over the moon and we wouldn't have played any differently to how we played.

"We contributed to a really good game of rugby. At the end of the day, either team could have been justified in winning the game.

"I am really proud in how we turned up today. We showed some really good qualities, we made a good Wasps team have to play very well to beat us, and I think that's what games of rugby should be about.

"It was two good sides going hammer and tongs. One had to win, and it wasn't us today."

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