Wasps 46 Chiefs 5
Exeter Chiefs 5
Mark Stevens at the Ricoh Aren
Who Exeter Chiefs will face in next Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership play-offs will remain a mystery until Wednesday.
It could be one of Bath, Bristol Bears or even Sale Sharks, however, their opponents will not be Wasps, who themselves booked home advantage in the last four with this victory over Rob Baxter’s side at the Ricoh Arena.
The Midlanders dominated from the start to finish, handing out a harsh top-flight lesson to the youthful Devonians, several of whom were given a brutal introduction to rugby life at the highest level.
They will learn plenty - of course they will - but even so a hefty loss like this is never nice to swallow.
The experienced Jimmy Gopperth led the way for Wasps, the prolific Kiwi helping himself to 19 points in a six-try victory for Lee Blackett’s side, whose triumph ensured they finished the regular Premiership season as the closest contenders to the table-topping Chiefs.
Other scores came from Jacob Umaga, Dan Robson, Josh Bassett and a brace for replacement Ben Vellacott, whilst all the Chiefs could muster in terms of a reply was a second half score for Premiership debutant Danny Southworth.
With Wasps parading a near full-strength line-up for this Round 22 encounter, it didn’t take the home side long to get their scoring account up and running. Gopperth punished Richard Capstick for not rolling away with a seventh-minute penalty, before doubling the dose shortly after when Harvey Skinner was penalised by referee Tom Foley for straying offside in midfield.
At the other end, the Chiefs did their best to try and counter the early penalties, but a stubborn Wasps rearguard, coupled with a lack of precision from the visitors, saw two decent attacking raids come and go without reward.
Having withstood the momentary threat of the visitors, Wasps then countered down field, fashioning an opening for fly-half Umaga to skate around on an arcing run, before sliding over the score. The officials we’re initially unsure as to the final grounding, but a quick check with the TMO confirmed the inevitable.
Gopperth slotted a brilliant touchline conversion to that score and Wasps second, which arrived just two minutes later, scrum-half Robson profiting on some loose Exeter hands in midfield, before racing unopposed from halfway for the score.
Already 20 points down, the half would get no better for the Chiefs, who having survived two more attacks from the hosts, leaked a third try with the last play of the half, Gopperth stretching beyond the attentions of Don Armand and Phil Dollman to make it 25-0 at the turn.
HALF TIME. WASPS 25 EXETER CHIEFS 0
Already facing a mountain to climb, the second half didn’t exactly start as Baxter would have hoped. Just four minutes had elapsed when Wasps claimed their all-important bonus point.
Ironically, it was the Chiefs who were quickest out of the traps, laying siege on the home 22 with a plethora of attacking waves. However, Wasps were standing firm and when young winger Tom Wyatt coughed up possession, Gopperth cleared down field, Minozzi fly-hacked the loose ball in behind and there was Bassett to gather and chug over for his simplest score of the season.
Gopperth converted once more with another majestic kick, before departing shortly after, his job for the day have been well and truly done.
To their credit, the visitors - who were now starting to run their bench - continued to battle away. Three successive tap penalties, all of which were led (head first) by hooker Jack Innard, got them to within sniffing distance of the line, before Southworth - on his first-ever Premiership outing - came round the corner of a close-range ruck to drive over.
It was a moment the youngster - who earlier this season was playing his rugby at Chinnor in the National Leagues - will remember forever.
Exeter’s joy, though, would prove short-lived as Wasps stung their opponents with two more scores in the final quarter of the match.
Replacement scrum-half Vellacott got them both, the first a simple touchdown from a metre out after his forwards had done the donkey work; the second a classier effort as he galloped over following great approach work involving Alfrie Barbary, James Gaskell and Tim Cardell.
Rob Miller added the conversion to put the gloss on a fine display for Blackett’s side who, like the Chiefs, must now wait until midweek to see who they will face for a shot at glory in Twickenham later this month.
Wasps: M Minozzi; Z Kibirige, M Fekitoa, J Gopperth (M Le Bourgeois 64), J Bassett; J Umaga (R Miller 52), D Robson (capt, B Vellacott 46), S McIntyre (T West 58), T Taylor (G Oghre 58), K Brookes (J Toomaga-Allen 51-71); W Rowlands (T Carrell 58), J Gaskell; B Shields (A Barbary 44), T Young, T Willis.
Tries - Umaga, Robson, Gopperth, Bassett, Vellacott (2); Conversions - Gopperth (4), Miller; Penalties - Gopperth (2)
Chiefs: P Dollman; T Wyatt (J Walsh 71), C Baldwin, T Hendrickson, A Cuthbert (J Short 65); H Skinner, S Maunder (S Townsend 45); J Kenny (D Southworth 51), J Innard (E Taione 58), M Street (A Petch 58); W Witty, D Dennis (T Price 65); R Capstick, D Armand (capt, L Pearson 45), C Wright.
Try - Southworth
Referee: T Foley