January 2nd 2021 marked the first clash between Wasps and Exeter since last years Premiership final all of 3 months ago. Wasps named a side that included all their big guns but the story was a little different for the Chiefs who had a number of stars on rest including Cowan-dickie, Henry Slade, Jonny Gray amongst others on the injury list. Though with both the newly honoured Joe Simmonds (MBE) and his brother Sam among the squad they certaintly still had the weapons to cause trouble.
However, the story of the first 10 minutes was sloppyness with both sides seemingly needing some time to warm up those hands on a bitterly cold afternoon. Knock-ons lead to scrums and those scrums lead to a lot of penalties, with the Wasps loose head bearing the brunt of the referees early ire, but Wasps managed to put it together when it mattered to keep Exeter out from the 5m line after 11 minutes of game time. It seemed a turing point at least for the set piece and the next few scrums were convincing won by the Wasps pack.
The first points came after a period of brutal pressure on Exeters try line. With every forward having a carry it was ultimatey James Gaskell who got the ball down over the line and put Wasps up 5-0. The game then reverted back to the pattern of knock-ons and scrums but with Wasps continuing to get the better of the decisions form referee Ian Tempest and it wasn’t until 25 minutes in that Exeter began to put together a dangerous looking attack. Lots of pretty phases playing wide to wide was nice to watch but another pernalty ultimately put an end to it. More Wasps scrum penalties followed by sloppy lineouts was the story of the remainder of the half allowing Wasps to mainatain a slender 8-0 lead into the break.
As the teams emerged for the second half the rain began to came down and it appeared the prospects of a wild attacking second half may be out of reach. The teams however had other ideas and Wasps lead was cut to 3 after a Joe Simomnd line break set up quick ball which young Richard Capstick was able to benefit from and pick a great line through the Wasps defense. He found himself 1 on 1 with fullback Lima Sopoaga and lets just say it wasnt the 15s best of efforts to stop him.
The always say your most vulnerable as a defence right after you score and Exeter proved this to be true and they had less than 5 minutes to enjoy being back within 3 points before lovely interplay between the Wasps forwards put Gaskell over for a second score. The game was then looking out of reach when the backs finally got involved and a Josh Bassest offload allowed Lima Sopoaga to make up for his less than max effort defenisvely by dotting down in the corner. To say something nice about the Wasps fullback, Sopoaga looked dangerous offensively all afternoon and was noticeable solid under the high ball. Ok now I feel less bad about posting this.
The ecounter desended into a full on scrap after that with the conditions finally taking their toll of the pitch we got to watch a good old fashioned bit of mud wrestling and whilst the big ugly lads smashed into each the wingers looked for new ways to stay warm 50m away from the action. With the arm wrestle slowly ticking away time Exeter had to do something and a slightly overly excited hit on the scrum half say a yellow card for try scorer Capstick and now the Chiefs had to scrap with one less brute and Wasps were able to score thier bonus point try 10 minutes from time.
A great win for Lee Blacketts men and a performance that Exeter will put behind quickly im sure.