Wasps were ahead at half-time against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday – and deservedly so. There was optimism in the air at Sandy Park during the interval, could this be the day Lee Blackett’s side turn their form around?
The answer was an emphatic no. The Gallagher Premiership champions ran in five unanswered tries as Wasps struggled to put any pressure on the hosts who eventually won the game 43-13.
Wasps won penalties, managed to turn over the ball as Exeter swarmed, but the errors kept on coming, especially in attack, to stifle their attempts of avoiding a ninth defeat in 11 games.
Here, Wasps writer Bobby Bridge highlights the key errors which led to the Black and Golds’ second-half capitulation.
1. Will Rowlands knock-on [40:04]
The lock fumbled the kick-off to start the second half. Exeter pounced and nearly two-and-a-half minutes later, after defending 13 phases across the breadth of Sandy Park, Tom O’Flaherty fires a pass into touch. Even when Wasps earn a penalty, Sam Skinner manages a lineout steal and it was only after nearly six minutes of the second half was played when Joe Launchbury earned a penalty and Umaga cleared.
2. Umaga’s chip ahead [42:18]
This seems a little harsh, but what came before it is important context. If the 22-year-old gathers his cute chip ahead, it was on. But Henry Slade read it and Wasps’ possession from the lineout lasted for eight seconds. Wasps needed a period of control, instead they gifted the ball back. This resulted in Sam Simmonds breaking through and Paolo Odogwu hauling him down inside the 22.
3. Tommy Taylor lineout underthrow [49:00]
Wasps won a scrum penalty after Luke Cowan-Dickie’s fumble, but Skinner plucked out Tommy Taylor’s throw.
4. MalakaiFekitoa’s defensive mishap [49:40]
Fekitoa’s decision to step out of the defensive line left Michael Le Bourgeois with too much to do and Ollie Devoto skillfully put Stuart Hogg in for his first try with 49:44 on the clock. Wasps had the ball on four occasions after the first error of the half but didn’t relieve the pressure and trailed 17-13.
5. Fekitoa interception pass [51:36]
Some areas of this analysis might be open to interpretation, but this error was indefensible. Wasps hadn’t earned the right to go wide and Fekitoa’s looping pass was pulled in with some comfort by Facundo Cordero – who, to his credit, hid well in the backfield, teasing the pass before pouncing. It was a critical error, as Wasps fell 22-13 behind.
6. Lima Sopoaga pulls out of high ball [53:46]
The Kiwi’s move to Lyon was confirmed in midweek, and this was his first Wasps game in ten. His first involvement arriving from the bench was to pull out of a high ball claim under pressure from Jack Nowell. The low sun played its part, but Rob Miller claimed in a similar position minutes before. Sopoaga has got to at least challenge for the ball, but instinctive self-preservation allowed the ball to bounce into touch.
7. Sopoaga and Robson misfire [55:30]
An Exeter Chiefs fumble gives Wasps a scrum to attack from inside their own half. Robson breaks down the blindside and fizzes a hot pass at Sopoaga who somehow manages to completely miss it in the action of catching, perhaps with Paolo Odogwu lurking it was an act to see him burst onto the ball. But again, it wasn’t executed and the ball bounced into touch near to the Wasps 22.
8. Fekitoa and Le Bourgeois misfire [55:53]
Rowlands stole the lineout and Wasps broke, but Fekitoa appeared to perform a similar late leave to Sopoaga, or maybe Le Bourgeois’ pass was just out of reach – but it appeared to be the former of the two possibilities. Either way, the attack was over.
9. Josh Bassett penalty concession [55:55]
To compound this failure between the inside and outside centre managing to pass to one another, Bassett is ruled to have blocked the tackler as Sopoaga attempted to pick up the pieces of loose possession.
10. Umaga loose pass [57:47]
Gabriel Oghre had got Robson out of jail when he managed to claim a skewed box kick, and Brad Shields did well to strip Cordero. But Umaga found the floor from the very next attack. Oghre again picks up the pieces and Le Bourgeois’ carry finally gets Wasps into the Exeter half.
11. Robson knock-on [59:15]
Replays appeared inconclusive on this one but referee Tom Foley was right on top of it as Robson sniped from the base of a ruck, made ground but was ruled to have fumbled when placing the ball. The look on Robson’s face suggested it was a harsh call, but it was a scrum to Exeter nevertheless.
12. Rowlands knock-on [61:26]
Wasps manage to get field position with a penalty kick to touch and retained the ball at the lineout, but upon the recycle, Rowlands knocks on.
13. Odogwu concedes penalty [62:21]
From the turnover of possession, Exeter attacked and Odogwu’s tackle on the drift was ruled to have been high or over the shoulder. It was another harsh call but the penalty was awarded and Exeter were back in an attacking position.
14. Robson lets ball bounce [63:41]
Smart work from Oghre again saw the replacement hooker pounce on Slade’s kick and Odogwu broke and Umaga grubbered into the Exeter 22. But the clearance kick was a teaser and indecision leads to Robson gathering it on the bounce before being bundled into touch inside his own half.
15. Le Bourgeois spill [66:22]
Again the argument might be made that the pass was a little in front of the Jerseyman, but his fumble undid some good work from Shields at the breakdown. Stu Townsend’s diagonal kick compounds the error for a 60-metre swing in territory.
16. Maul mishap [66:50]
Wasps win the resulting lineout but make a mess out of the maul. A minute-and-a-half later, Tomas Francis scores Exeter’s fifth try. to lead 29-13.
17. Vellacott’s low-distance box kick [72:51]
It may have been a tactic to try and retain possession, but having seen a similar low-distance box kick moments before, Nowell was never going to pass up a second opportunity and Exeter were in possession near to Wasps’ 22.
18. Odogwu missed tackle [73:15]
Joe Simmonds’ drifting run left Odogwu with plenty to do and space to cover but ultimately he missed his man and the fly-half crossed to make it 36-13.
19. Jeff Toomaga-Allen fumble [75:19]
The replacement Kiwi prop got into the the thick of the action but spilled this pass from Umaga, Jacques Vermeulen breaks to put Wasps on the backfoot.
20. Leaving the backfield open [77:10]
Wasps had a man down receiving treatment, but to leave a space as big as what was gifted to Hogg was a jaw-dropping moment. Sopoaga was up in the line, Zach Kibirige was on the opposite side of the pitch and the closest man to the ball was hooker Oghre, who emptied the tank trying to stop the flying Scotsman, but somehow he managed to latch onto his own kick to score Exeter’s seventh and final try of the game.
To find out how we rated the Wasps players out of ten against Exeter Chiefs, click here.