Chiefs and Scarlets crowned Champions | Premiership and Pro12 Finals
30th May 2017
The bank holiday weekend produced a fine weekend of sport. Sebastien Vettel won in sunny Monaco, Thomas Dumoulin was crowned Giro d’Italia champion, Wenger secured his 7th FA Cup win as Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1, Huddersfield Town gained promotion to the Premier League after a tense penalty shoot out win in the play off against Reading, England were defeated by South Africa in their final ODI before the Champion’s Trophy and in the rugby world the Chiefs and Scarlets were crowned domestic champions whilst a youthful England side beat the Barbarians, 28 – 14.
Exeter Chief and Wasps faced each other in the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham. The two sides could not be seperated after the regulation 80 minutes as the two teams battled it out in extra time. Exeter started the stronger of the two teams with regular bursts deep into the Wasps half and made it tell with a wonderfully worked move off the back of a lineout giving the deadly Jack Nowell a chance to finish, which he duly took. Their next chance came after a bust through the middle by the ever impressive Ollie Devoto, who then found Phil Dolman with a sweet offload as he spun himself over the line. With two Gareth Steenson conversions Exeter had raced to a 14 – 3 lead.
This lead remained untouched until just before half time when Cipriani, Taylor, Robson and Gopperth linked wonderfully for a score that dragged them right back into the game. This score was a stark reminder as to how deadly Wasps can be, scoring from anywhere. Wasps carried this momentum into the second period and after a barnstorming carry by Nathan Hughes, Christian Wade was released and his kick and chase fell kindly into the hands of Elliott Daly for a score.
Exeter may have been rocked by this quick double score which wiped out their early lead, however they didn’t show it battling their way back into the game. Despite losing Phil Dollman they were still very much in the race. Gopperth and Steenson exchanged penalties and the game was left hanging in the Wasps’ favour as they held a three point lead going into the final period. Exeter were able to get themselves into the Wasps’ 22 late on and won a penalty which the seemingly nerveless Gareth Steenson converted to take the game into extra time.
With confidence flowing through the Chiefs they went on to dominate the extra 20 minutes despite the savage fatigue that must have been setting in to both teams after what had been a helter-skelter 80 minutes. Despite their dominance the additional time went scoreless until the 98th minute when Gareth Steenson, one of the originals from the team that was promoted to the Premiership only 7 years ago, held his nerve to kick the Chiefs into a 23-20 lead and the Premiership title.
This result completed the Cheifs’ fairy tale story. Exeter were a fourth division club when rugby union went professional 22 years ago, and they only arrived in the Premiership in 2010, further relefcting the staggering scale of their achievement.
The final of this year’s Pro12 was not nearly as tense as the earlier Premiership final as the Llanelli Scarlets rocked Munster with a first half blitzing. The game was almost up after half an hour as they flew their way into a 29 – 3 lead and the game continued to follow suit as the Scarlets went on to score 6 tries to Munster’s 3, which could really only be described as consolatory. The biggest statement made in the second half was by the West Walian crowd who were in full voice for the second 40 minutes celebrating their sides first trophy since 2004.
The Scarlets continued on from their performance against Leinster in the semi-final with the impressive back row of Shingler, James Davies and Barclay combining brilliantly, Davies and Patchell running the show from half back and the outside backs were led superbly by Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams. They played the game with a massive intensity and were able to cut Munster’s defence apart regularly throughout the contest.
The first try came when a brilliant cross field kick from Rhys Patchell found Liam Williams out wide who managed to dive over in the corner, catching Keith Earls too narrow. Then tries came thick and fast for the Welshmen with Steff Evans, Gareth Davies and Tadhg Beirne crossing after several influential plays from Jonathan Davies. 31 minutes gone, four tries and a mountain to climb for Munster.
This sprung the men from the South into action as they started to put some clever plays and running lines together. After kicking to the corner, Taute ran his trademark hard line and a phase later Tyler Bleyendaal was able to drift behind a runner to score under the posts. The crowd began to believe. The belief was soon taken away when, straight after the restart, Munster were penalised and Rhys Patchell duly obliged to stick the penalty between the posts to make it 32 – 10 and draw the fire out of any potential come back. A further blow came from the truly deadly finisher, DTH van der Merwe, who was released by Jonathan Davies and ran rings around several Munster players to score an all too easy try. Munster ran in a saltry two tries towards the end before James Davies had the last laugh with a long range effort.
With elation in the Scarlets camp who have had a remarkable final straight this year, it was desolation for Munster who would have so loved to finish this emotional year with a trophy. Both sides must look to build on this year over the summer and back it up in the 2017-18 season.