Premiership final five things we learned: Exeter Chiefs learn from their mistakes, Wasps will come again

Chiefs complete the success story that shows the best of rugby union, rate of attrition takes its toll on Wasps and why replacing Geoff Parling will be Exeter's toughest task this summer

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The Independent Sport

Exeter really did learn from their past

The build-up to the Premiership final saw the Exeter Chiefs head coach, Rob Baxter, talks up how his side had learned from the defeat by Saracens a year ago and now expected more to come from the play-offs. That certainly showed last week against Saracens as they knocked out the reigning European champions, but this victory was something else.

12 months ago, Exeter found themselves trailing 22-3 and blown off the park by a rampant Saracens side, only to fight back into the game. This time around, it was the West Country side that came charging out the gate, with tries from Jack Nowell and Phil Dollman putting them 12-3 to the good.

When Wasps unsurprisingly rallied, it was Exeter who still had something in the tank and although they flirted with defeat – as Steenson’s penalty less than two minutes from normal full-time tied the scores – they always looked the side who would win it in extra-time.

Victory one of the feel-good stories of rugby union

Exeter’s promotion seven years and one day ago started one of the success stories that shows off the best of rugby union. After winning the Championship in 2010, Exeter survived the always-tricky first season in the top flight, before qualifying for the Heineken Cup the following year in what already proved a fairytale rise.

They have continued to push on ever since though, reaching the play-offs three years ago and the final last season. That they could not conquer Saracens in 2016 was soon forgotten when they beat them at Sandy Park last week, and this victory over Wasps felt like the pinnacle of their remarkable story.

Plenty of rugby fans will happily admit that they have a soft spot for Exeter, such is their well natured approach to the game, their likeable character among the staff and squad and the fact that they still have players who helped seal that promotion, thus making their story fairy tale worthy.

Attrition takes its toll on Wasps

Every break in play during extra-time saw a number of Wasps players collapse to the turf gasping for air, and it was no surprise when the Exeter pressure finally told and a penalty was won in the scrum. Wasps were struggling in the scrum early on, and with Phil Swainston forced off with a head injury shy of the half an hour mark, Dai Youngs options were reducing.

The worst happened when Swainston’s replacement, Marty Moore, suffered injury shy of regular full-time, and he too had to leave the field. On came Matt Mullan, having already been replaced, with loosehead Simon McIntyre switching to tighthead.

Wasps’ patched-up front-row did well to cope as well as it did, but the writing was on the wall and the penalty eventually came when Mullan couldn’t stop the pressure coming his way.

Don’t be surprised to see Wasps triumph next year

The saying that “you have to lose one to win one” was once again reaffirmed here. Saracens have had to go through it, Exeter did too and now, you feel, so will Wasps. They were nothing short of brilliant during the regular season and have possibly the best back line in world club rugby. They showed plenty of resolve last weekend to battle back and beat Leicester Tigers, but this one proved a step to far.

What is on the cards now for the Coventry outfit is the type of changes that turn contenders into winners. Dai Young spoke after the match of the need to make minimal adjustments and will spend the summer fine-tuning his side. Give it 12 months, and this Wasps side will be even closer to claiming that title in what will be the 10-year anniversary since their last triumph.

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Wasps suffered defeat in their first Premiership final in nine years (Getty)

Parling will be a miss for Exeter

He may not take the plaudits like some of his high-profile teammates, but the Japan-bound Geoff Parling will be a massive loss to their side. He was brilliant in running the lineout here and disrupted the Wasps throw, and he was also a prominent runner that did not shy away from the contact area, getting his side over the gain line with what felt like every run he had.

But what might prove the biggest loss to this side is his experience. The 33-year-old has performed on the biggest stages, both in club and international rugby, and is an expert and studying the lineout to perfection. He was one of few players among the Exeter squad before today to have experience of winning a Premiership title, and he leaves the club having passed on all that knowledge to put them in good stead for the future. Now they just need to find a replacement.

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