Premiership final: Wasps 20-23 Exeter Chiefs (aet)

Exeter won their first English title eight years after winning promotion to the top flight
Exeter won their first English title seven years after winning promotion to the top flight
Aviva Premiership final
Wasps (10) 20
Tries: Gopperth, Daly Cons: Gopperth 2 Pens: Gopperth 2
Exeter Chiefs (14) 23
Tries: Nowell, Dollman Cons: Steenson 2 Pens: Steenson 3

Exeter held firm to edge past Wasps in extra time and win their first ever Premiership title in a classic final.

Jack Nowell finished in the corner, and Chiefs led 14-3 after Phil Dollman battled his way over.

Jimmy Gopperth grabbed a try and Elliot Daly got another as Wasps rallied either side of half time, but Gareth Steenson kicked a last-minute penalty to make it 20-20 at full time.

Steenson then slotted the winning kick with three extra-time minutes left.

The title-winning three points came after the Devon club were denied a try by the television match official moments earlier.

It was the first Premiership final to have gone to extra time since 2014, when Northampton beat Saracens in dramatic contest, and the 79,657 fans at Twickenham were braced for penalty kicks before Wasps were penalised at the scrum.

Relive Exeter's extra-time victory over Wasps

Dai Young's side had won their last 10 finals in all competitions, including four Premiership deciders, but fell agonisingly short in their first since 2008.

But Exeter, who were beaten by Saracens in last season's showpiece event at Twickenham, are now unbeaten in 17 league matches dating back to October, equalling a record set by Leicester in the 1999-2000 campaign.

Advantage Exeter and a Wasps fightback

Wasps were far from their fluent best before the break, as they struggled to get on the ball and made a number of errors.

England wing Nowell opened the scoring in fantastic style from a rehearsed line-out, taking the ball at pace from Luke Cowan-Dickie before weaving his way to the line.

Jack Nowell celebrates scoring Exeter's first try
Jack Nowell celebrates scoring Exeter's first try

Exeter made their dominance count when veteran Dollman, given his first Wales call-up this week, held off Christian Wade to score from Ollie Devoto's offload.

Rob Baxter's side should have held a larger advantage at the midway point, but turned down several kickable penalties and a slick Gopperth try with the last move of the half gave Wasps a lifeline at 14-10.

The Coventry side went ahead in fortunate style, Wade's attempted kick and run bouncing perfectly for Daly to dot down, and it was 17 unanswered points when Gopperth kicked a penalty for free-flowing Wasps.

Drama and more drama

Jack Yeandle of Exeter Chiefs and Gareth Steenson
Jack Yeandle (left) embraces match-winning team-mate Gareth Steenson

With less than 20 minutes of normal time remaining, Steenson made a simple penalty to edge Chiefs to within three points, but the Wasps pack defended ferociously to prevent their opponents scoring a match-winning try.

With just one final wave of attacks to hold out, the otherwise excellent Nathan Hughes was penalised and Steenson was again on target to force an extra time of two sets of 10 minutes.

The first half of extra time was scoreless, though Exeter looked the fresher side and with just minutes remaining they were denied a try by the TMO, who could not see whether the ball had been grounded under a sea of bodies after 25 phases.

But the Devon club did not relent and Steenson, who guided the side to top-flight promotion from the Championship in 2010, kicked the decisive points.

The rise and rise of Exeter

Just 20 years ago Exeter were winning promotion from the third tier of English rugby, having previously played even further down the pyramid.

The next big step in their rise to the top was coming up from the largely semi-professional second-tier competition in 2010, when the south-west side beat Bristol in a two-legged play-off final.

While most promoted clubs have struggled to establish themselves in the Premiership, going straight back down or enduring financial difficulties, Baxter's Chiefs have somehow improved season upon season.

In the one season their Premiership finishing position worsened, the 2013-14 campaign, they won the Anglo-Welsh Cup - the club's first ever major trophy.

They did not quite do themselves justice in last year's Premiership final, as they were outfoxed by Saracens, but Exeter have responded in typical fashion to right those wrongs.

The fact that three of the side that guided them up from the Championship - Steenson, Dollman and Ben Moon - all started against Wasps adds to the romanticism of the story, which has culminated in Exeter becoming the seventh side to be crowned champions in the league's present format.

Reaction

Rob Baxter, Head Coach of Exeter Chiefs celebrates with his wife Jo and son Jack following his side's victory
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter celebrates their win with his wife Jo and son Jack

Exeter Chiefs head coach Rob Baxter told BBC Sport: "It does feel like it's been a long journey getting here.

"I've never once woken up feeling it's a dream because the people who have lived and breathed it every day know how hard we've worked and they know the sacrifices that have been made.

"As great as today is it can't be the defining thing about Exeter - if this is it now and we're on a nice downward spiral from now, I'll be hugely disappointed and I will have massively failed in a large part of my job."

Wasps director of rugby Dai Young told BBC Sport: "I'm trying not to be too disappointed because I think we've had a fantastic season and we showed some real qualities.

"We also showed we're a work in progress - there's still things for us to improve on and keep working on.

"On occasions we make it hard for ourselves but certainly the spirit and commitment was there - it hurts at the minute and there's not much I can say to the players to make it better for them."

There was a minute's silence observed at Twickenham for the attack in Manchester earlier in the week
There was a minute's silence observed at Twickenham in tribute to victims of the Manchester attack earlier in the week
Wasps' Jimmy Gopperth
Gopperth scored all 10 of Wasps' first-half points
Wasps' Nathan Hughes conceded the late penalty that allowed Exeter to level
Wasps' Nathan Hughes conceded the late penalty that allowed Exeter to level
Gareth Steenson
Gareth Steenson levelled scores at 20-20 to force the game into extra time, then won it with another penatly

Wasps: Le Roux; Wade, Daly, Gopperth, Bassett; Cipriani, Robson; Mullan, Taylor, Swainston, Launchbury (capt), Symons, Haskell, Young, Hughes.

Replacements: Johnson, McIntyre, Moore, Myall, Thompson, Simpson, Leiua, Halai.

Exeter Chiefs: Dollman; Nowell, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn; Steenson (capt), Townsend; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Williams, Dennis, Parling, Horstmann, Armand, Waldrom.

Replacements: Yeandle, Rimmer, Francis, Lees, S Simmonds, Chudley, Slade, Campagnaro.

Attendance: 79,657

Referee: JP Doyle

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