Rob Baxter, the Exeter coach, was relieved to hear the final whistle at Sandy Park on Saturday as his side came perilously close to throwing away the points against Wasps.
The hosts were sailing home with an 18-point advantage going into the last 11 minutes before late scores from Christian Wade and Ashley Johnson – both converted by Andy Goode – ensured a nervous final few minutes.
“A challenge for us has been when we are ahead to turn the screw and close out the game,” Baxter said after his side held on to win 30-26. “It has been a bit of an Achilles heel for us. I wouldn’t say that we stop working but we maybe lose a bit of focus and I think that is what happened today. We will obviously talk about it but the reality is that Wasps are a good side.”
Tries in either half from Tom James and another score from James Scaysbrook had put the Chiefs, who led 16-12 at the break, in command.
“I think that we did well to get the daylight that we did,” Baxter continued. “Going into that final quarter, no disrespect to Wasps, but with that much daylight and needing a try for a bonus, the ball is in your court to get the full amount from the game.
“I’m frustrated a little by that but probably more frustrated by the manner in which we ended up in our own 22 for an extended period and conceded two relatively soft tries.”
Dai Young, Wasps director of rugby, was pleased with the late fight displayed by his side after a poor start. “We have had two bonus-point losses, at one stage today even the bonus-point loss looked unlikely,” he said. “But we came back to sneak a bonus point at the end.”
The Worcester coach, Dean Ryan, was left “astounded” after a late penalty award saw his side remain winless near the bottom of the table following a 20-18 home reverse against London Irish. Ed Shervington was penalised with four minutes remaining to allow Ian Humphreys to secure the points for the Exiles.
“For the second week in a row there has been some random refereeing,” Ryan fumed. “There is an element of ill-discipline but I believe we are not getting a fair crack and I was astounded by the award of the last penalty.”
Ryan shared the blame around to his players after they failed to build on a strong position in the match: “We have good footballers in this side but we need maturity as we are undoing all our good work by blowing pressure situations.”
In the RaboDirect Pro12 on Saturday, Ospreys escaped with a 29-29 draw at defending champions Leinster after throwing away a 10-point lead. Two Gareth Davies tries helped Scarlets overcome Benetton Treviso 26-10, with Steven Shingler also contributing 16 points with the boot.