Dennis in party mood after Exeter premiership

International
AFP
by AFP

Former Wallaby Dave Dennis had to look on with tears in his eyes as the Waratahs grabbed Super Rugby glory in 2014 but his search for a major title ended when Exeter were crowned English champions.

The English Premiership final against Wasps was an extra-time thriller with the Chiefs kicking the only points in time added on for the 23-20 victory at Twickenham on Saturday.

Dennis was captain of the 2014 Tahs but injured his knee coming into the playoffs and had to hand the on-field captaincy to a rookie in Michael Hooper and like that Super Rugby final against the Crusaders this Premiership decider went right down to the wire.

Exeter flyhalf Gareth Steenson's penalty 30 seconds from normal time levelled the game and meant both sets of players had to endure another 10 minutes each way in the warm London sun.

And Steenson settled the matter with the only points in extra time just two minutes from the end to break Wasps' hearts.

"I was nervous taking both those penalties at the end of normal time and then extra-time," said Steenson.

"But at the end we have the trophy and now it's time to celebrate."


Exeter made it second time lucky as they shrugged off the disappointment of last year's Twickenham defeat by Saracens - the team they beat in this season's semi-finals - to deny Wasps.

"I feel for Wasps but I felt for us as well last year when Sarries beat us," said Exeter coach Rob Baxter.

This was the first time in their 146-year existence that Exeter had been able to say they were the best team in England, with the club only having been promoted to the top flight seven years ago.

Exeter have got great value out of their Aussie connection with Dean Mumm having three seasons there before returning to Australia and former Wallabies prop Greg Holmes also playing at the club.

Baxter then challenged his side to focus their ambitious sights on European success.

The Director of Rugby, tipped to succeed Eddie Jones when the England head coach decides to step down in the future, admits there is nothing the club can't achieve if they continue to dream and work hard.

"We have let ourselves down in Europe so far but now we have to put that right.

"On the back of this success, which we will celebrate for a while, we must look to the next level. Saracens have shown what can be done and we are another English club who wants to emulate that kind of achievement.

"We have amazing people at the club and when you have everyone pulling together you can achieve anything."


Chiefs chairman Rowe claimed: "Seven years ago when we clawed our way into the Premiership we dreamed of this scenario."We wanted to get to this stage where we were good enough to become English champions. But now we are here it's got to be onwards and upwards. The ambition burns bright, and so does the desire to become better and more successful.

"We want to be European champions. That's the next step up, and this special day shows just what can be achieved by this club. Everyone at Sandy Park deserves this moment to celebrate and enjoy the fruits of the hard labour."

Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young, whose side had finished top of the Premiership table in normal season, choked back the disappointment of going so close to lifting the title for the first time in nine years.

Wasps have climbed back to the top of English club rugby since moving to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry from their original base sharing with Wycombe Wanders Football Club.

And Young admitted: "We've come a long way in the last year or two and we are still progressing in the right direction. It's really disappointed for the players but I am also very proud of them. There are a lot of players in there really hurting and it will take them a day or two to get over it.

"We were 90 seconds away from winning it but it wasn't to be.  We have obvious strengths but now we have to build on our weaknesses. Exeter have shown the way and shown what can be done if  you keep at it and know which direction you want to go in.

"We want to become a consistent top six team now and come back here next year to try and win the trophy."

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