|Exeter: (13) 19|
|Try: Slade Con: Simmonds Pens: Simmonds 4|
|Wasps: (10) 13|
|Try: Umaga Con: Gopperth Pens: Gopperth 2|
Exeter completed their first domestic and European double as they beat Wasps to win the Premiership title.
Henry Slade’s try cancelled out Jimmy Gopperth’s early penalty before Jacob Umaga’s score put Wasps ahead only for Joe Simmonds to kick two penalties to put the Chiefs ahead at the break.
A second Gopperth penalty was followed by a third from Simmonds in a tense second half played in torrential rain.
Exeter repelled a late Wasps late surge before Simmonds’ final kick sealed it.
The victory came seven days after Exeter beat Racing 92 to win their maiden European Champions Cup title and the Chiefs are just the fourth English side to win both the Premiership and top-tier continental title in the same season.
Tense final held amid Covid-19 precautions
Played in driving rain with a crowd numbering just a few hundred due to Covid-19 restrictions, Exeter held their nerve to win a game held four months later than its usual summer date, against a Wasps side that only knew they would be allowed to take part on Wednesday after a spate of positive coronavirus tests.
While the wet weather seemed to lend itself to the type of pick-and-go game that Exeter are renowned for, the two tries both came from excellent play from the backs.
England centre Slade broke through from 40 metres after 17 minutes having sold a dummy that wrong-footed Tom Willis to put the Chiefs ahead.
Wasps fly-half Umaga then found a hole 20m out created by Dan Robson’s pass and Zach Kibirige’s run and went under the posts after half an hour.
Joe Simmonds kicked two penalties in the final five minutes of the first half as Exeter opted for the points rather than their usual tactic of kicking for a lineout and trying to drive over in the torrential rain.
When Exeter did have possession close to Wasps’ line, the Premiership runners up were excellent and stopped the Chiefs’ feared forward machine time and again as Joe Launchbury and Jack Willis led their defensive efforts.
It took nearly 20 minutes for any further movement on the scoreboard as Gopperth kicked the sides level at 13-13 after superb work by Lima Sopoaga to catch a penalty while jumping back onto the field to keep the play alive and then being first to the tackle to force the penalty.
With five minutes to go Wasps spurned their best chance to win the game. They mauled themselves towards the Exeter line and Jack Yeandle was forced to pull the maul down, but having opted for a lineout drive rather than a kick at goal from the penalty, replacement hooker Gabriel Oghre’s throw was picked off by Exeter lock Jonny Gray.
The Chiefs won their own penalty in the final moments and 23-year-old skipper Simmonds kicked his fourth three-pointer to seal the double and become the youngest man to captain a side to the Premiership title.
Exeter join pantheon of English greats
Exeter’s victory ensured they will go down in English rugby history as just the fourth club to win domestic and European titles in the same season.
They join Leicester, who did back-to-back doubles in 2001 and 2002, Wasps – who won both titles in 2004 – and Saracens, who dominated at home and abroad in 2016 and 2019.
But this Exeter double comes just a decade after the club were first promoted to the English rugby’s top flight, having spent the first 139 years of their existence on the lower steps of the English rugby pyramid.
Masterminded off the field by chairman Tony Rowe and on the field by director of rugby Rob Baxter, the Chiefs have not finished outside the top two in the last five years and have never failed to make the Twickenham showpiece when qualifying for the play-offs.
Some argue Exeter could have won more titles had Saracens not had as many star players for their final meetings with the Chiefs in 2016, 2018 and 2019 – Sarries were relegated this year after breaching the Premiership’s salary cap rules and overspending on players’ wages.
Analysis – Exeter ‘a poster team for the Premiership’
Matt Dawson – Former Wasps and England scrum-half
This Exeter squad are a quality outfit.
The dynasty, the legacy that this team can create for the next two or three years could easily compete with the Wasps from the noughties and the Leicester of the nineties.
They are a poster team for the Premiership right now and I’m thrilled to bits for them because they are a team you want to support and do well because of their attitude. There isn’t a jealousy around how they do it.
It’s a hard grafting mentality and it’s a pleasure to watch.
Exeter celebrate with two trophies
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter:
“The biggest emotion right here and now is one of relief. I know that sounds strange when you win a competition, but I think last week plays a huge part in that.
“What I’m really pleased with more than anything else is that we’ve got a group of players down there now, we’ve got both trophies in the changing rooms because we need them both there because we can now celebrate last week as well as this week.
“Whatever would have happened today, if we hadn’t have won it would have certainly taken the shine off that a little bit. What this allows us to do is to genuinely stop and pause and look back a little bit over a very good season over two very good competitions and allow us to actually now spend some time reflecting on how important the work these guys have done has been to the club.
“I’m just relieved that they’re capable now of really enjoying what they’ve achieved without any shine being taken off.”
‘The players made the call on the field. We just didn’t execute’
Wasps head coach Lee Blackett told BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra:
“I’m pretty gutted. It’s been an emotional week and there is more emotion now.
“I’m proud of how we reacted this week and the grit and determination we showed today close to our own line – character, fight, desire.
“Exeter probably had more field position and on reflection probably deserved their win. But we had a position there with a few minutes to go and we didn’t take it. The call was made on the field, we just didn’t execute it.
“We’re bitterly disappointed, but there’s no point dwelling on it now. Everyone will look at that but there are lots of little moments in the game.
“I’m proud of how we have come through this period. Some young players have given a really good account of themselves. Hopefully this makes us stronger. I’d like to think this is the start of a journey.
“It is going to take a bit of getting over and it will be a challenge with a short off-season, but we have to get over it because we are going to be starting again very soon.”
Exeter: Hogg; Nowell, Slade, Devoto, Woodburn; Simmonds (capt), Maunder; Hepburn, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Skinner, Hill, Ewers, Kirsten, Simmonds.
Replacements: Yeandle, Moon, Francis, Gray, Vermeulen, Hidalgo-Clyne, Steenson, Ian Whitten.
Wasps: Minozzi; Kibirige, de Jongh, Gopperth, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; West, Taylor, Toomaga-Allen, Launchbury (capt), Rowlands, J Willis, Young, T Willis.
Replacements: Oghre, Harris, Alo, Gaskell, Morris, Vellacott, Sopoaga, Le Bourgeois.