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.
Nathan Hughes helps put Wasps into play-off picture as they sink leaders Exeter
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.
Match Report – Exeter 19 – 26 Wasps | 14 Apr 2019
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.
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.
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.
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…