Exeter Chiefs claim 2020 Gallagher Premiership title to go alongside their 2020 European Cup crown
By Michael Cantillon at Twickenham
Last Updated: 24/10/20 8:43pm
Exeter edged Wasps 19-13 at Twickenham to secure their second Premiership title and seal a domestic and European double.
A Henry Slade try and 14 points via Joe Simmonds saw Rob Baxter’s Chiefs add the league title to their 31-27 European Cup final victory over Racing 92 in Bristol last week.
Wasps, who came into the final minus 11 squad players due to positive Covid-19 Tests and close contract protocols, scored their points through a Jacob Umaga try, Jimmy Gopperth conversion and two Gopperth penalties.
Lee Blackett’s side were always in the tight and error-ridden contest, played out in torrential rain for its entirety, but were left to rue a late five-metre lineout throw which was critically stolen by Exeter replacement Jonny Gray.
Played behind closed doors and amidst a chorus of sustained hooting and cheering from either side’s support staff and non-playing squad members, the start to the final was tense, with several errors in terrible conditions.
The first clear-cut scoring chance did not arrive until 13 minutes in, as Wasps centre Gopperth kicked his side into a 3-0 lead after Exeter lock Sam Skinner had been penalised for falling on the wrong side and failing to roll away.
From the restart, Chiefs prop Harry Williams earned a textbook breakdown penalty after fantastic jackal technique, and Slade kicked to the corner. Wasps forced an unplayable maul from the resulting lineout to win a turnover though, as the Chiefs uncharacteristically visited a 22 without garnering points.
Just when Wasps thought they had averted the danger, however, clearing their lines and defending strongly to push the Chiefs back behind the gain-line, Slade showed superb intelligence to dummy and sprint down the right for an outstanding try.
Simmonds converted for a 7-3 lead, but the sides continued to trade mistakes thereafter as a swirling rain continued to lash down. But on the half-hour mark, Wasps hit back via a stunning Umaga try.
Scrum-half Dan Robson fixed Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie with a dart and pass to Umaga, after which the Wasps 10 stepped past Stuart Hogg and skipped ahead of a trailing tackle by Dave Ewers to dive over.
Moments later, Wasps full-back Matteo Minozzi knocked on a Jack Maunder box-kick just outside his 22. Chiefs forced two penalties – one at the scrum, one for playing the nine – allowing Simmonds to level the contest from close-range at 10-10.
Into dead time of the first half, Exeter got another penalty to take the lead, when Launchbury was penalised for hands in the ruck, allowing Simmonds to split the uprights for a 13-10 half-time score.
Six minutes into the second half, Exeter turned down a potential shot at goal for a kick to the corner, but it proved the wrong decision when Wasps flanker Jack Willis won a monumental breakdown penalty on top of his own try-line.
With the ball beginning to resemble a bar of soap and the lineout a lottery, knock-ons became frequent.
Just shy of the hour mark, Gopperth levelled things from the tee after fantastic play from replacement Lima Sopoaga. He acrobatically collected the ball and landed in-field before dispatching a monster kick downfield. It meant Exeter missed touch with a penalty kick from hand and then conceded a penalty at the breakdown when under pressure.
Wasps had again forced an Exeter maul unplayable within their 22 just before that, as the recently-crowned European champions began to experience frustration.
A dominant scrum penalty put Chiefs back into the territory they needed to be, however, before Willis was penalised at the breakdown for hands in the ruck. It presented Simmonds with a kick from the 22 to establish another slender Chiefs lead at 16-13 with 14 minutes to go.
Another penalty against Wasps – this time at the lineout – saw Slade produce a sensational kick to touch, but the Wasps defence of the subsequent maul was strong, before they forced a Chiefs knock-on within their 22.
The best chance of the second half fell Wasps’ way inside the final six minutes as a lineout which rumbled forward was illegally halted metres from the Chiefs try-line.
Wasps kicked to touch again, but the ensuing five-metre lineout was critically stolen by Exeter lock Gray – an action which proved the winning of the final.
The Chiefs saw out the remainder of the game by accruing penalties at three consecutive mauls, before a Wasps indiscretion at the breakdown resulted in Simmonds having the concluding kick of the match to register three more points and prompt more Exeter elation.