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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 26 April, 2019

Exeter Chiefs win epic Premiership final with Ireland's Gareth Steenson kicking 98th minute winner

Chiefs led 14 -10 at half-time, but were held to 20 – 20 after full time and extra-time.

Image: Mike Egerton

THE EXETER CHIEFS are the English Premiership champions after a dramatic 23 – 20 win over Wasps after extra-time.

The sides played out a Titanic struggle over 100 minutes, deadlocked 20 – 20 after full-time and extra-time.

Chiefs, who knocked out European champions Saracens last week, laid siege to the Wasps try-line late in the extra minutes before the pack forced a penalty, which Ulster native Gareth Steenson coolly slotted.

The men from Devon made it second time lucky as they shrugged off the disappointment of last year’s Twickenham defeat by Sarries to deny Wasps.

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 the break.

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 Steenson.

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 Number eight 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 full-back 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 Chiefs v Wasps - Aviva Premiership - Final - Twickenham Source: Paul Harding

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 joyously.

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