By Ali Stokes
A frenetic start to the Coventry clash saw no shortage of scores. Clean breaks, ingenuity and streetwise penalties thrilled the horde of avid viewers at a wet Ricoh arena today, ensuring the punters won fair bang for their buck.
An early opening score from an Elliot Daly linebreak seemed to set the tone, slicing past the backpedalling Exeter centre Ollie Devoto and running in under the posts. A stellar performance in the 15 jersey for Daly, who produced magic moment after magic moment in the opening 40 that included a clever territorial grubber in behind the Chiefs defence and a perfectly timed hit on scrum-half Stu Townsend that disrupted the famous Chiefs possession game.
An unfortunate running theme for Townsend that reared its ugly head throughout the afternoon, with Tommy Taylor, Joe Launchbury and Christian Wade twice hitting Townsend before the halfback could distribute, disrupting Exeter's rhythm.
However, while Wasps may have stunted Exeter's flow, the visiting side still managed to cross for three tries in the opening 40, with Argentinian wing Santiago Cordero crashing over in the right corner following a knock-on from a Wasps scrum that gave Exeter's backline the chance to spread to the Pumas star.
Wasps new protege, fly-half Billy Searle, replied with an ingenuitive grubber to put wing Josh Bassett in the opposing corner to Cordero's touchdown 60 seconds earlier.
Exeter returned in kind with a trademark dot down from England number eight Sam Simmonds at the back of a Chiefs scrum. Simmonds' international teammate Henry Slade added to the Chiefs scoreline, proving he could do anything Daly could. In a carbon copy of Daly's score, Slade sliced through the Wasps defence to run in a 20-metre effort untouched. An interesting observation for England boss Eddie Jones, who will have been considering both Slade and Daly at outside centre this November.
Rob Baxter's charges went to put boot to throat and further pressurise the home side, but a couple of set piece penalties and a late shot from Devoto allowed Searle to slot a 42 metre penalty and for returnee England eight Nathan Hughes to force his way over Exeter's try line from the ensuing quick tap, swinging the scoreboard from 17-21 in Exeter's favour to a 24-21 lead.
Captain Joe Launchbury went on to force a penalty and end the first half with his side claiming a three-point lead.
Secondary scores for both Simmonds and Slade - the latter of which came from a Searle intercept - swung the lead 35-21 in Chiefs' favour, piling further insult to injury for Wasps after newly arrived England blindside Brad Shields was forced from the field following a clash of heads with Townsend.
With the lead lost and his side committing a handful of sloppy errors whilst rushing for a late surge of points, All Black standoff Lima Sopoaga made his much anticipated Wasps debut with 25 minutes to go.
Sopoaga's influence - in addition to a fresh frontrow - inspired a more pragmatic final quarter, with Dan Robson reducing their deficit to just four points by sniping over from one metre out following a period of pragmatic, heavy carries from Wasps' forward unit.
A satisfying turn in fortunes for Wasps morphed into the all too familiar sight of Exeter dominance. A Henry Slade touch finder, Harry Williams scrum penalty and Don Armand short range score seemed to follow Exeter's winning blueprint to the letter, securing a high scoring affair with the bonus point in the bag.
Wasps claim both losing bonus points to take maximum points from a defeat but will find themselves ruing a frantic third quarter that saw Exeter capitalise on their opponents' mistakes.