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Category: Wasps

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Rob Baxter and Exeter’s merry men aim to follow Clough path to European glory

After their thrilling extra-time win against Wasps to win Premiership title, the Chiefs seek to follow the Nottingham Forest side of the late 70s

So much for a mellow bank holiday weekend beside the river Exe. Never before has the West Country played host to a Monday afternoon street parade to salute England’s league champions and the warm and fuzzy feeling from Newlyn to Newton Abbot is equally unprecedented. Even for those locals still crawling back from “the Smoke” or struggling to raise heads off pillows, the thrill will take a lifetime to fade.

Three contrasting post-match snapshots showed what it all meant. Rob Baxter’s genuine fly-in-the-eye emotion on the pitch and the receiving line of supporters waiting to shake the hand of the chairman, Tony Rowe, both summed up the storybook nature of the Chiefs’ crowning achievement but the most telling image was the picture of the entire squad blinking in the Sunday morning light outside Gareth Steenson’s bar-cum-garage, all cheerfully clad as Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

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Exeter Chiefs champions after epic win over Wasps completes fairytale rise

• Wasps 20-23 Exeter (aet; score at 80min 20-20)
• Exeter’s Gareth Steenson stays cool after Wasps fumble their way to defeat

A final between the two most prolific teams in the Premiership was decided by a kick rather than a try. Gareth Steenson’s penalty three minutes from the end of extra time after Wasps, who by then had lost both their tight-head props to injury, had infringed at a scrum for the seventh time, settled a full-blooded but scrappy encounter that saw Exeter crowned champions seven years and one day after they won promotion to the Premiership.

Related: Wasps 20-23 Exeter – Chiefs crowned Premiership champions – as it happened

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Exeter Chiefs champions after epic win over Wasps completes fairytale rise

• Wasps 20-23 Exeter (aet; score at 80min 20-20)
• Exeter’s Gareth Steenson stays cool after Wasps fumble their way to defeat

A final between the two most prolific teams in the Premiership was decided by a kick rather than a try. Gareth Steenson’s penalty three minutes from the end of extra time after Wasps, who by then had lost both their tight-head props to injury, had infringed at a scrum for the seventh time, settled a full-blooded but scrappy encounter that saw Exeter crowned champions seven years and one day after they won promotion to the Premiership.

Related: Wasps 20-23 Exeter – Chiefs crowned Premiership champions – as it happened

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Wasps v Exeter Chiefs: Premiership final – live!

1.50pm BST

So, a few quick-fire stats and facts to get us started then.

All four of Wasps’ past Premiership triumphs (2003, 2004, 2005 and 2008) have come after finishing second in the league. This season, they finished first. Exeter have not won at Twickenham in six previous visits. But victory for the Chiefs would equal Leicester’s Premiership record of 17 matches unbeaten. And the man in the middle this afternoon, JP Doyle, the 37-year-old Dubliner, trained to be a secondary school teacher down the road at St Mary’s University.

1.41pm BST

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

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Wasps’ Danny Cipriani takes ‘better brain’ into Premiership final | Michael Aylwin

The fly-half has matured and curbed his more rebellious instincts with the club looking for their first Premiership title since 2008 as they face Exeter

It is a common storyline in sport, and it is common in life, legend and literature. The brilliant youth; the effortless, vertiginous rise; the prosaic, enraging restrictions; the exile and fall.

And then – well, it depends on our hero. Icarus fell straight into the sea, but Danny Cipriani came again. As he prepares to step out at Twickenham for Wasps’ first tilt at the Premiership title since the final days of the Lawrence Dallaglio era in 2008, he is better than ever, more measured, more in tune with those around him, more of a fly-half.

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Wasps’ Danny Cipriani takes ‘better brain’ into Premiership final | Michael Aylwin

The fly-half has matured and curbed his more rebellious instincts with the club looking for their first Premiership title since 2008 as they face Exeter

It is a common storyline in sport, and it is common in life, legend and literature. The brilliant youth; the effortless, vertiginous rise; the prosaic, enraging restrictions; the exile and fall.

And then – well, it depends on our hero. Icarus fell straight into the sea, but Danny Cipriani came again. As he prepares to step out at Twickenham for Wasps’ first tilt at the Premiership title since the final days of the Lawrence Dallaglio era in 2008, he is better than ever, more measured, more in tune with those around him, more of a fly-half.

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Wasps’ Danny Cipriani takes ‘better brain’ into Premiership final | Michael Aylwin

The fly-half has matured and curbed his more rebellious instincts with the club looking for their first Premiership title since 2008 as they face Exeter

It is a common storyline in sport, and it is common in life, legend and literature. The brilliant youth; the effortless, vertiginous rise; the prosaic, enraging restrictions; the exile and fall.

And then – well, it depends on our hero. Icarus fell straight into the sea, but Danny Cipriani came again. As he prepares to step out at Twickenham for Wasps’ first tilt at the Premiership title since the final days of the Lawrence Dallaglio era in 2008, he is better than ever, more measured, more in tune with those around him, more of a fly-half.

Continue reading…

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Thrilling Premiership semi-finals hint at a Twickenham treat yet to come | Robert Kitson

If the forthcoming final comes anywhere close to matching the level of entertainment in these matches then supporters are guaranteed a cracking game

Assuming both teams can still walk after two truly epic Premiership semi-finals, the English club season is set for a ripper of a Twickenham finale. If the showdown between Exeter Chiefs and Wasps is even half as thrilling as Saturday’s twin peaks it will be a rare treat, even if the significant shoulder injury that has ruled Billy Vunipola out of the Lions tour has now cast a cloud over the latter stages of the domestic season.

On paper it will look pretty routine to anyone who missed the games in favour of, say, attending a society wedding: the top two regular season sides made home advantage count and will now meet in the final. That simplistic summary does not reflect the intensely dramatic reality: the aggregate margins at Sandy Park and the Ricoh Arena amounted to just three points and neither victory was sealed until the closing seconds.

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Leicester’s Freddie Burns prepares for end to ‘rollercoaster’ ride

The Tigers face Wasps in their Premiership play-off semi-final which could be the fly-half’s last game for them before returning to Bath

Freddie Burns is the first to admit his three years at Leicester have not gone to script. The plan was that a dose of Tigers pragmatism under Richard Cockerill would harness his mercurial talents and catapult the fly-half to sustained England recognition. But the reality has been somewhat different.

It is easy to forget Burns arrived at Leicester having started two of England’s matches on the 2014 tour to New Zealand. A preoccupation with nailing down a World Cup spot precipitated a drastic loss in form, however, and illness – he was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy in the summer of 2015 – injuries and the inertia that kicked in at Welford Road under Cockerill ensued. But the irony is that he has found his best form in a Leicester shirt in the most turbulent of seasons, all the more so after it was announced he would be the makeweight of George Ford’s return to the Tigers at the end of the season.

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Rugby’s generation game sees Young and Maunder Jr make names for themselves | Robert Kitson

Family ties are rife in the game with former players Dai Young and Jim Mallinder coaching their sons and Jack Maunder following in his father’s footsteps

Even as small boys Thomas Young and his two brothers knew instinctively what to do whenever they saw their Wales international father Dai’s packed bag in the front hall. “Apparently the three of us used to have a fight to get into his kit bag before he went away,” recalls Young Jr. “The three of us would jump in and say: ‘We’re going with him.’” Like father, like son? Let’s just say the chances of the Wasps flanker pursuing a career in classical dance were never great.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

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Rugby’s generation game sees Young and Maunder Jr make names for themselves | Robert Kitson

Family ties are rife in the game with former players Dai Young and Jim Mallinder coaching their sons and Jack Maunder following in his father’s footsteps

Even as small boys Thomas Young and his two brothers knew instinctively what to do whenever they saw their Wales international father Dai’s packed bag in the front hall. “Apparently the three of us used to have a fight to get into his kit bag before he went away,” recalls Young Jr. “The three of us would jump in and say: ‘We’re going with him.’” Like father, like son? Let’s just say the chances of the Wasps flanker pursuing a career in classical dance were never great.

Related: Dylan Hartley in line for surprise Lions call-up for tour to New Zealand

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Wasps and Exeter lead way as dizzying season reaches thrilling finale | Robert Kitson

Aviva Premiership campaign, which has seen try-scoring records tumble, reaches play-off stage with Wasps hosting Leicester and Saracens travelling to Exeter

A record-breaking 2016-17 Aviva Premiership season is looking set for an equally fast and furious finish as the four title rivals enter the final stretch. Already the two leading sides, Wasps and Exeter, have surged past the longstanding record for team tries scored in a season, previously held by Newcastle in 1997-98, and the play-offs this month are a good bet to produce more high-speed entertainment.

Only once before, in 1999-2000 when defences were much less organised, have more tries been scored overall during a 22-match regular season than the tally of 725 this year and more thrills and spills appear certain in the semi-finals on Saturday week. There will be sellout crowds, too: Wasps versus Leicester is increasingly a “must-see” Midlands derby while there will be a stampede in Devon for tickets to watch Exeter against Saracens at Sandy Park.

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Thomas Young hat-trick helps Wasps beat Saracens to gain home semi-final

• Wasps 35-15 Saracens
• Home semi-final against Leicester reward after topping table

Wasps used to win the Premiership play-offs despite not finishing top, but three tries in the final quarter kept them at the head of the table at the end of the regular season to set up a semi-final with Leicester, who finished a distant fourth, rather than a return bout with Saracens. Thomas Young scored three tries, but it was the home side’s two major close-season’s signings, Kurtley Beale and Willie le Roux, who had the means to puncture the meanest of defences.

Related: Exeter’s Will Chudley sets record in hard-fought win against Gloucester

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Saracens and Gloucester to field weakened teams for Premiership finale | Robert Kitson

Several top players will sit out the regular-season close on Saturday as clubs elect to keep key men fresh for Europe next weekEven those officials who long ago opted to end the Premiership campaign with a grand sudden-death Twickenham finale will have…

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Harlequins’ Nick Evans says goodbye in style in victory over Wasps

• Harlequins 32-13 Wasps
• Nick Evans kicks 22 points but Danny Care an injury concern

Nick Evans waved goodbye to the Harlequins faithful in the style that has typified his nine years in south-west London, orchestrating a victory that, while tempered by Danny Care’s injury scare, boosts their hopes of a top-six finish and a place at Europe’s top table.

Care went off with a suspected stomach injury that may put his place on England’s summer tour to Argentina in doubt and he could well be replaced by his opposite number on the night, Dan Robson, who scored a fine try on what was otherwise a difficult evening for Wasps.

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Bristol go down fighting in spirited battle against Wasps

• Bristol 21-36 Wasps
• Bristol lacked the overall class of their opponents and face relegation

Bristol are down but they were far from out against the Premiership leaders. They matched Wasps in spirit, pressing at the end when the cause had long been lost and scoring two tries, but they lacked the overall class and polish of their opponents which too often meant that opportunity knocked on.

A 10-minute period of play in the first half summed up Bristol’s season. They were trailing 14-7 having taken an early lead through Jason Woodward’s opportunism after Wasps had fumbled the ball hear halfway and conceded two tries in four minutes and knew they had to score next to prevent the flickering flame that represented their Premiership survival from being snuffed out.

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