16 APRIL 2019 | ROB SUTTON | 09:00
“Who Saw A Win Over Exeter Coming!?” Exeter 19 Wasps 26
What a difference a fortnight makes in the Gallagher Premiership. Having ended March with an away defeat at Gloucester to leave Wasps nervously looking over their shoulders, April has started with back-to-back wins.
The home win over Worcester was hugely significant, but the performance still left room for improvement. Sunday’s stunning win over Exeter at Sandy Park was about as good as it gets. Many have called it Wasps’ best performance of the season, I would suggest it is one of Wasps’ best performances in recent years.
The odds were stacked against them, 12-0 down in conditions that only Sandy Park could throw up against a team only beaten once at home in the Premiership since October 2016. But in the space of 10 minutes, Wasps’ season changed. Inspired by the influential Nathan Hughes, they ran in three tries & had a 21-12 half time lead.
The second half was scrappy, but once Zurabi Zhvania had finished a wonderful move for the bonus point, Wasps looked good for the win. Exeter rallied, of course they did & cut the gap to 7 but Wasps repelled 23 phases of relentless Chiefs pressure to close out a tight finish. The final defensive set was reminiscent of the glory years & wherever he was watching from, Lawrence Dallaglio will have raised a glass to the current crop of Wasps players.
It was a win with “old” Wasps running through it & the fact that the team seems to be peaking in April is also similar to those days where Wasps struggled through the early parts of a season & came good just when the trophies were handed out.
For the first time this season, Wasps’ semi-final hopes are in their own hands. Three wins will secure a play-off place, almost certainly back at Sandy Park at the end of May. Most eyes are unsurprisingly drawn to the May 18th showdown against Harlequins at the Ricoh Arena, but for me, the clash with Saracens could be the decisive one.
Saracens’ team selection may rest on events against Munster in the European semi-final this weekend, a game which interestingly will also be played at the Ricoh Arena, but if they opt to rest some of their internationals, then Wasps have got to fancy their chances of a third straight win.
This has been an amazing Gallagher Premiership season & it is getting harder & harder to predict. Who saw a win over Exeter coming!? We couldn’t knock over Saracens as well could we? Stranger things have happened…
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