Wasps stun leaders Exeter in Sandy Park upset Wasps pulled off one of the shocks of – Belfast Telegraph

Wasps stun leaders Exeter in Sandy Park upset Wasps pulled off one of the shocks of - Belfast Telegraph

MATCH REPORT: Exeter Chiefs 19-26 Wasps – Dai Youngs men claim first ever win at Sandy Park

With second-placed Saracens also beaten at Bristol, Exeters first home league defeat in 14 months does not alter their position as the league leaders but it could just give their play-off rivals some timely encouragement. The top four qualifiers may even include Wasps themselves, this heart-warming result on a distinctly chilly afternoon having hoisted them to fifth place, three points behind Harlequins in fourth.

Read more No wonder Rob Baxter described it as a kick in the pants for his team, whose 100th home Premiership fixture was not meant to end in this fashion. Having played so well at Leicester the previous week, Exeter turned the ball over no fewer than 21 times, suffered recurring lineout issues and were also guilty of a couple of costly missed tackles. In a league of such tight margins that sort of inaccuracy rarely goes unpunished.

The wing flew to the corner, but was tackled into touch by Olly Woodburn and TMO David Rose rightly ruled out the score. Wasps werent to be denied a second time and out of nowhere they again countered impressively to score three tries in the last nine minutes of the first half It meant that surprisingly, they went to the break ahead. First, Daly did brilliantly to lead the charge and freed Watson. 

Wasps were required to make twice as many tackles and had to defend for lengthy periods but their international forward trio of Joe Launchbury, Brad Shields and Nathan Hughes worked tirelessly, with the scrum-half Joe Simpson finishing joint top of the tackle charts with 25. I dont think Exeter played poorly, suggested Wasps director of rugby, Dai Young, delighted by his sides unexpected away success. They chucked everything at us and we stood up to it all. I couldnt be prouder of the boys.

All of a sudden Exeter were flailing and Hughes again picked up from a scrum – kicked through – and Watson pounced with Woodburn all at sea. Sopoagas conversion made it 21-12 at the break. Nowell suffered an ankle injury scare at the start of the second half, but Wasps were now a far more confident side. 

Exeter 19-26 Wasps: Visitors claim first win at Sandy Park and banish relegation fears

If it helped that Exeter lost their twinkle-toed full-back Santiago Cordero prematurely with a strained knee and also saw Jack Nowell limp off with a sore ankle, Wasps had to cope with the early loss of the hooker Tom Cruse, who had felt unwell before kick-off and lasted only 10 minutes. By that point Exeter were already a try in front courtesy of Nowell and had a second on the board when Nic White burrowed over from close range. Nowell, sporting a distinctly unsubtle new sponsored headguard, was again involved in the buildup and a routine win appeared to be taking shape.

This time he passed to Le Roux who had an easy finish and Daly converted. Next Hughes picked up from the back of the scrum, charged forward, and temporary substitute back De Jongh was the beneficiary as he finished well under pressure. Lima Sopoaga curled the conversion between the posts in fine fashion. 

Any semblance of Exeters rhythm swiftly disappeared, however, beneath a welter of wasteful offloads, average decision-making and some game-slowing tactics from their opponents. Wasps responded with three tries in a mad nine minutes at the end of the half, Willie Le Roux, the temporary replacement Juan de Jongh and Marcus Watson taking advantage of repeated Exeter disarray. Watsons try was particularly shambolic, a hopeful Hughes grubber kick prompting a mass defensive mix-up that saw the loose ball bounce straight into the arms of the former England Sevens flyer.

When Hughes was subsequently penalised for a no-arms charge on Ian Whitten the stage seemed set for a trademark Exeter catch and drive try but, not for the first time, the Wasps pack had other ideas. The Chiefs Scotland international Sam Skinner has a broken foot but Jonny Hill, Dave Dennis and Mitch Lees should be back for their next game at home to Harlequins, and their England back-rower Sam Simmonds is also set to be available within a fortnight or so.

The No 8 had what would have been a bonus point try ruled out for double movement, but it was now Exeter doing the chasing. Zhvania then put the game to bed with Wasps fourth and a remarkable try in which he exchanged a one-two with centre Gabriele Lovobalavu and reached for the line. 

A nine-point cushion at the top will not spare the league leaders from Baxters wrath in the debrief, with the Exeter director of rugby unimpressed by both their error count and lack of attacking decisiveness.

The England wing collected and beat Le Roux to score in the corner. Joe Simmonds conversion was inch perfect in terms of line, but it was stopped short of the posts by the wind in unfortunate fashion. Still, it was all Exeter as Slade found Nowell again with a basketball-style pass. 

For Young and Wasps, in contrast, this was a lovely bonus which could yet make their final home game against Harlequins a play-off eliminator. This Premiership campaign has been reliably unpredictable all season and there could yet be a sting in the tale.

Wasps had never won at Sandy Park, but thanks to a man-of-the-match performance from Nathan Hughes and almost 220 tackles, more than double Exeters tally, they now sit fifth in the table and three points behind fourth-placed Harlequins.

The start went according to the usual Exeter pattern before Wasps, eighth heading into the game, opted to set fire to the script with a superb defensive effort. Joe Simpson, Brad Shields and Nizaam Carr all made more than 20 tackles and Wasps landed their punches on the…

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