Wasps 34-5 Exeter: Premiership leaders lose first game of the season

3 weeks ago
James Gaskell scores a try for Wasps
Wasps (8) 34
Tries: Gaskell 2, McIntyre 2, Sopoaga Cons: Sopoaga 3 Pen: Sopoaga
Exeter (0) 5
Try: Capstick

Wasps cruised to a five-try bonus-point win as they handed reigning champions Exeter their first Premiership defeat of the 2020-21 campaign.

Exeter had picked a weakened side, allowing further rest for some of their now available international players.

But Wasps took advantage, James Gaskell and Simon McIntyre both crossing twice, while Lima Sopoaga also scored to add to his nine points with the boot.

Richard Capstick, later yellow-carded, got Exeter’s only try after the break.

Exeter were already deprived of injured Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg (hamstring) and lock Jannes Kirsten (facial injury).

But, even allowing for boss Rob Baxter’s decision not to play England quartet Luke Cowan-Dickie, Harry Williams, Jonny Hill and Henry Slade, and Scotland’s Jonny Gray and Sam Skinner, to concede five tries and be so well beaten was a shock – especially as Exeter had only shipped three tries in their first four league games this season.

The Ricoh Arena meeting of last year’s league winners and the beaten finalists came just 10 weeks on from the Chiefs’ narrow 19-13 Twickenham triumph.

Wasps prop Simon McIntyre

But, just two weeks before the Premiership final, they were soundly beaten 46-5 at the Ricoh – and this was Exeter’s first defeat since then.

Wasps were without two injured players themselves, loose forward Alfie Barbeary (ankle) and wing Zach Kibirige (concussion protocol) – and the only downside was the half-time loss of England flanker Jack Willis with a hip injury.

But, given the feared customary dominance of the Exeter pack, especially this season’s runaway top Premiership scorer Sam Simmonds, it was a particularly memorable afternoon for two of the home forwards.

While Simmonds failed to add to his eight tries in four games, Gaskell and McIntyre shared four of Wasps’ five scores between them.

Flanker Gaskell’s two were his first in the Premiership this season for Wasps – the only try of the first half followed by a sprint in for a second 10 minutes after the break, which earned him an immediate subbing.

And, after just two tries in 123 previous league appearances for Wasps, McIntyre came off the bench to double his Premiership try count.

What is more he did it in the space of barely 20 minutes, twice crashing over, the second of them in time added on, having entered the fray just before Exeter were reduced to 14 men by young loose forward Capstick’s yellow card.

Wasps boss Lee Blackett told BBC CWR:

“We’re really pleased with the result, built off our good defence and a very good performance by the pack up front.

“It’s one of our big strengths. People underestimate how good a pack we’ve got. We knew they were missing some key guys but we went with as big a pack as we could. It’s a long time since we picked Haskell at six.

“Jack Willis’ injury looks like a back/hip spasm, It looks muscular. Hopefully it’s not too serious but we’ll know more in the next couple of days.”

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Radio Devon:

“You’re always disappointed to lose but, at the same time, we knew Wasps were going well and had returning players and we haven’t played well enough.

“You’ve got 15 moving parts out there who are pretty well oiled and know their role in the machine. They move down the field in a relatively ordered and structured way. Well, you don’t have to have too many parts of that machine not quite aligned for it to become tough.

“But we’ve lost games before and we’ve come back and won Premierships and European cups. And it’s not just about winning. It’s about dealing with losses and we have to do that now.”

Wasps: Sopoaga; Odogwu, de Jongh, Le Bourgeois, Bassett; Umaga, Robson; West, Cruse, Brookes, Launchbury (capt), Rowlands, Gaskell, J Willis, T Willis.

Replacements: Young (for J Willis 41), Toomaga-Allen (for Brookes 48), Morris (for Gaskell 52), Taylor (for Cruse 52), Porter (for Robson 68), McIntyre for West 59), Atkinson (for Umaga 70), Gopperth (for Le Bourgeois 73).

Exeter: O’Flaherty; Woodburn, Hendrickson, Devoto, Whitten; J Simmonds, Hidalgo-Clyne; Hepburn, Yeandle (capt), Street, Witty, Armand, Ewers, Capstick, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Francis (for Street 44), Price (for Witty 52), Maunder (for Hidalgo-Clyne 52), Innard (for Yeandle 59), Kenny (for Hepburn 59), Skinner (for J Simmonds 70), Hodge (for O’Flaherty 70), Tuima (for S Simmonds 70).

Sin-bin: Capstick (67)

Referee: Ian Tempest.

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