A – Wallabies great George Smith’s English rugby club Wasps booked a spot in the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup with a dramatic 25-24 victory over Exeter.
New Zealander Jimmy Gopperth landed a nerveless conversion from the sideline with the final kick of an epic quarter-final to break Exeter’s hearts at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry.
Gopperth added the touchline extras to fullback Charles Piutau’s second try of the match in front of a jubilant home crowd of nearly 24,000.
Wasps director of rugby, Dai Young, was delighted with the victory over an Exeter side which contained Australians Lachie Turner and Julian Salvi.
“It was great theatre at the end for the supporters. It’s not a bad way to win, but not a great way to lose, so you have got to feel for Rob (Exeter head coach Rob Baxter). It was a great game that could have gone either way,” Young said.
“Fair play to Jimmy. It wasn’t an easy kick. I don’t think many people in the stadium were watching it with both eyes open, that’s for sure.”
Try-scoring machine Thomas Waldrom looked to have stung Wasps for a second time this season as Exeter built a commanding lead midway through the second-half.
Kiwi-born England international No.8 Waldrom, who scored a hat-trick of tries when Exeter beat Wasps in an Aviva Premiership encounter four months ago, struck with two more touchdowns, while substitute prop Harry Williams also scored, with skipper Gareth Steenson kicking all three conversions before adding a penalty.
But Wasps were not to be denied, as Pituau struck following a relentless spell of Wasps pressure that Exeter looked to have repelled through some sustained, heroic defending.
It followed the fullback’s earlier try, while winger Frank Halai also touched down, with Gopperth adding two penalties and two conversions to book a semi-final appointment with Saracens or Northampton at Reading’s Madejski Stadium on April 23.
The 35-year-old openside flanker Smith is nearing the end of a one-year deal at Wasps and is expected to finish his stellar career in Japan.