Wasps overcome injury setbacks to edge champions Exeter
The hosts lost Danny Cipriani, Marcus Watson, Jack Willis and Alex Rieder in the second half.
Exeter missed the chance to return to the top of the table as injury-hit Wasps gained revenge for last season’s Aviva Premiership final defeat.
Wasps lost that game 23-20 after extra time but they were celebrating on Sunday as they overcame the loss of four players in the second half for a deserved 13-7 victory against the toothless champions.
Marcus Watson crossed for a try which Danny Cipriani converted, with Jimmy Gopperth adding two penalties.
It was a real arm wrestle but we matched them physically and just did enough to win. Wasps director of rugby Dai Young
Luke Cowan-Dickie scored Exeter’s try and Gareth Steenson added the extras.
Despite having the majority of possession, Exeter went down to their second defeat in a row as frequent errors and a lack of an attacking spark cost them the match.
Exeter dominated the opening exchanges to such an extent that Wasps made 42 tackles in the first eight minutes with the visitors not having to make a single one.
However, Chiefs could not take advantage of all that possession, despite bursts from Cowan-Dickie and Lachie Turner threatening the home line.
I’m a lot more OK with today than last week as our foundations were there but we weren’t clinical enough. Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter
It was therefore against the run of play when Wasps took a 13th-minute lead when Willie Le-Roux’s well-judged pass gave Watson the opportunity to get outside Olly Woodburn and score.
It became a double blow for Exeter when Jonny Hill was yellow carded for a tip tackle on Le-Roux as he delivered the scoring pass.
Wasps looked to have extended their lead when a long pass from Gopperth saw Josh Bassett touchdown only for the TMO to decide that the pass was forward.
Hill returned from the sin-bin to see good runs from Cowan-Dickie and Will Chudley secure Exeter a five-metre scrum but the visitors repeatedly conceded soft penalties to allow the pressure to be relieved.
Just before half-time, Tomas Francis was adjudged offside for Wasps to have a good opportunity to increase their advantage by kicking the penalty. However they opted for an attacking line-out and the chance was lost so it remained 7-0 to the hosts at the interval.
That meant the champions had played 120 minutes of rugby and scored only five points, a try from lock Mitch Lees in last week’s shock defeat to Worcester.
After the restart, Wasps suffered three big blows when Cipriani (ankle), Watson (leg) and flanker Jack Willis (shoulder) all left the field with injuries but they overcame those setbacks to pick up the next score when Gopperth kicked a penalty.
The home side were hit with another serious injury when replacement Alex Rieder was stretchered off, which was cruel luck on the flanker as he had only just returned from a shoulder injury that had kept him out since September.
The setbacks kept coming for the hosts as Ashley Johnson was sin-binned for a high tackle and Exeter immediately capitalised when Cowan-Dickie finished off a driving line-out.
However Exeter could not take any further advantage of Johnson’s absence and Wasps’ performance of huge spirit was rightly rewarded when Gopperth sealed victory with his second penalty.