Twickenham - Exeter were crowned English club champions for the first
time in their history as they beat Wasps 23-20 after extra time in a tense,
thrilling final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Chiefs flyhalf Gareth Steenson's penalty 30 seconds from
normal time levelled the game and meant both sets of players had to endure
another ten minutes each way in the warm London sun.
And flyhalf Steenson settled the matter with the only
points in extra time just two minutes from the end to break Wasps hearts.
The men from Devon made it second time lucky as they
shrugged off the disappointment of last year's Twickenham defeat by Sarries to
It may not have been the points-fest so many had predicted
but that was not due to a lack of effort and endeavour as Chiefs led 14-10 at
Wasps had no answer when Chiefs worked a line-out superbly
as Thomas Waldrom fed Luke Cowan-Dickie and the hooker's sublime pass inside to
Nowell put the England wing through and across the line for a try converted by
Wasps retaliated with their own pressure on the Chiefs line
but the Devon team's defence stood firm for a while until they gave away a
penalty and centre Jimmy Gopperth reduced the lead.
Wasps' England No 8 Nathan Hughes was taken off for a head
injury assessment but soon returned to the back of the scrum. Prop Phil
Swainston also sustained a blow to the face and was led off the field but he
failed his HIA and was replaced.
Moments later a searing Chiefs attack saw Ollie Devoto
produce a short pass to the supporting Dollman with the fullback forcing his
way over with Steenson converting.
But there was still a late twist to the first half as Wasps
finally broke through the thick white Chiefs defensive line.
Cipriani made the original break, fed to hooker Tommy Taylor
who combined with Dan Robson to send Gopperth darting through and over for a
try he converted himself. A real lifeline which put them just four points
behind at the break.
Wasps poked their noses in front for the first time three
minutes into the second half as Hughes showed all his mighty strength and power
to shrug off a posse of Chiefs rivals and spark a surge down field.
Christian Wade's chip through bounced perfectly for Elliot
Daly who grabbed the ball and touched down.
Gopperth converted and the game had changed complexion
completely. Steenson responded to reduce Wasps advantage to three points with
just over 15 minutes remaining.
Exeter took a risk by rejecting an easy three points in
front of the Wasps posts and took a scrum instead. Tension and what was at
stake took over as Chiefs struggled to gain control and possession of the ball
from their own scrum just inches from the line.
That risk failed to pay off but there was one last chance
for Steenson to kick the game into extra time. An equally nervous extra time of
ten minutes each half saw Chiefs replacement hooker Jack Yeandle go close but
fail to claim a try.
But it was left to Steenson to kick the decisive penalty
when Wasps collapsed a scrum and Chiefs and their fans could celebrate