Champions Exeter Chiefs reclaim top spot in the Aviva Premiership with comfortable victory over Wasps

Exeter Chiefs 31 Wasps 17: Olly Woodburn scored at the start and end of the match as as Aviva Premiership champions Exeter claimed a bonus point in a dominant victory over Wasps 

Shaun Malton of Exeter dives over to score his side's fourth try
Shaun Malton of Exeter dives over to score his side's fourth try

Champions Exeter reclaimed top spot in the Aviva Premiership by stinging Wasps 31-17 at Sandy Park and recording a third successive bonus-point victory.

Last season's Premiership final between the clubs needed extra-time to decide it, but the Chiefs' ruthless first-half performance meant they were out of sight by the break.

Wing Olly Woodburn scored two tries, while flankers Dave Dennis and Don Armand also touched down - all four scores came between the ninth and 38th minutes - to showcase Exeter's first-half dominance and underpin a second defeat on the bounce for Wasps after they lost to Harlequins last weekend.

Replacement hooker Shaun Malton added a second-half try, with skipper Gareth Steenson kicking three conversions as the Chiefs moved two points clear of Saracens and Newcastle.

Flanker Ashley Johnson and wing Josh Bassett scored tries for Wasps, with Jimmy Gopperth adding two conversions and a penalty, but they never seriously troubled an Exeter side looking like major title contenders just four games into the new Premiership campaign.

Steenson skippered Exeter in the absence of injured captain Jack Yeandle, with Elvis Taione starting at hooker, while full-back Phil Dollman was also ruled out and replaced by Lachie Turner.

Wasps, meanwhile, arrived in Devon minus injured front-line players like Danny Cipriani, Willie le Roux, Dan Robson and Gaby Lovobalavu, but Gopperth returned from a foot problem at fly-half and England flanker James Haskell made his first start of the season.

Exeter, though, were immediately on the front foot, going through a remarkable 32 phases of play as Wasps were pinned deep inside their own half, and such domination eventually told when possession was moved wide and Woodburn finished off.

Wasps were surviving on scraps of ball, but they struck from their first attack as Johnson made the most of a fortuitous bounce off the back of a lineout and charged 20 metres to score. Gopperth converted, sending his team into a 7-5 lead.

Exeter were rocked by Johnson's opportunist effort, and a Gopperth penalty extended Wasps' advantage, but the hosts bounced back to end a thrilling opening quarter on level terms when Dennis surged straight through an attempted Haskell tackle.

The Chiefs then suffered a major injury blow when number eight Sam Simmonds, scorer of four Premiership tries already this season, was carried off following an attempted tackle on his opposite number Nathan Hughes, requiring oxygen from the on-pitch medics before departing.

Gareth Steenson of Exeter Chiefs looks for a pass

Julian Salvi took over from Simmonds, but Exeter were not knocked off their stride, and they posted a third try after 26 minutes when Armand collected centre Henry Slade's cleverly-floated pass to touch down under pressure from Wasps defenders Josh Bassett and Rob Miller.

Steenson found his radar to add a touchline conversion and the game continued racing along at almost a point per minute.

Simmonds returned from the changing rooms to watch the remainder of the game from Exeter's bench, and he appeared just in time to see Exeter claim a bonus-point try when more impressive approach work by Slade ended with Woodburn claiming a second touchdown.

Steenson's conversion opened up a 14-point gap, and Exeter trooped off in command of a richly-entertaining contest.

Joe Launchbury of Wasps leads his team off the field following

Wasps had the better of a tight and scoreless third quarter, but Exeter then put the game further out of Wasps' reach when aggressive close-quarter work by their forwards ended with Malton stretching out to touch down.

Steenson added the extras, only for Wasps to hit Exeter with a superb long-range try started by centre Elliot Daly, taken on by Hughes and then finished by Bassett following scrum-half Joe Simpson's further injection of pace.

Exeter, though, had more than done enough, and they head to Leicester next Saturday high on confidence.

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