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Chiefs climb to top spot


Jack Nowell scored two tries for Exeter

Jack Nowell scored two tries for Exeter

Jack Nowell scored two tries for Exeter

Exeter Chiefs went to the top of the Aviva Premiership for at least 24 hours after a richly deserved 31-15 victory that left Wasps still in pursuit of a first win at Sandy Park.

Two tries for England wing Jack Nowell plus one from number eight Tom Waldrom, and 10 points from the boot of fly-half Gareth Steenson, steered Exeter Chiefs to a 25-8 half-time lead, and two more Steenson penalties after the break sealed the success.

Wasps initially matched their hosts with a penalty from fly-half Andy Goode, but against a strong Chiefs defence the visitors could manage just the one try before the break through former England Under-20 full-back Rob Miller.

Despite five scrum penalties five metres from the Chiefs line, they were not awarded a penalty try after the break. A Tom Lindsay try which was converted by Alex Lozowski proved insufficient to give Wasps a foothold.

The Chiefs made two changes from the side that beat league leaders Northampton Saints 24-18 at Franklin's Gardens last weekend with Dave Ewers at blindside flanker and Ian Whitten at inside centre.

There were three changes to the Wasps side as Sam Jones came in at openside flanker, after international duty, and Wales lock Bradley Davies and Italian prop Lorenzo Cittadini returned.

Full-back Phil Dollman, who this week agreed a new two-year deal with the Chiefs, was making his 100th league appearance for the team which was matched by Wasps' England-capped scrum-half Joe Simpson.

Exeter made the perfect start when scrum-half Will Chudley perfectly timed his offload for Nowell to score out wide, with fly-half Steenson's conversion squeezing just inside the far upright.

Wasps were quickly back up the other end where they won a penalty in front of the posts which England international Andy Goode slotted between the uprights, however Steenson soon countered that for Exeter.

A quick tap penalty allowed the visitors to spread the ball wide with an overlap available as full-back Miller came into the line to touch down. Goode was unable to convert but Steenson then found the target with a penalty.

Wasps tested the Chiefs defence, which stood firm, and the home side reacted with Nowell scoring a second try as he shrugged off a couple of defenders to cross the line.

The visitors then lost wing Christian Wade with an ankle injury to be replaced by Tom Varndell. A Chiefs catch and drive led to Tom Varndell getting the try which Steenson converted to ensure the 17-point gap between the sides at the interval.

Wasps started the second half the stronger and caused the Chiefs problems at the scrum close to the line where they were awarded three penalties, but on the fourth occasion tighthead prop Tomas Francis was sent to the sin bin.

The next two scrums saw both front rows stood up before reinforcements were sent in to continue the battle five metres from the Chiefs line, only for Wasps to be awarded another penalty.

Referee Ian Tempest seemed unwilling to award the visitors a penalty try but instead Chiefs gained the next scrum penalty and were able to clear their line as they remained down to 14 men.

Wasps were left scratching their heads wondering as to why they gained nothing for the efforts which would have got them back in the game. When the Chiefs finally got out of their own territory, Steenson landed his third penalty.

Wasps replacements Varndell and Lozowski saw a break from deep in their own half and replacement hooker Lindsay crossed from short range. Lozowski converted but Steenson slotted another penalty.

The home side went in search of a try-scoring bonus point and Wasps had to play the final two minutes with centre Elliot Daly in the sin bin.