The last time Wasps were victorious in the Premiership final back in 2008, they beat Leicester Tigers at Twickenham. Exeter had just failed to gain promotion from the old National Division One, the second tier of the domestic game, and the club’s ambitious dream of putting Devon back on the rugby map seemed a distant one.
In the intervening nine years, however, Wasps have drawn a frustrating blank in terms of silverware. At the same time, the Chiefs have joined the English elite.
The two sides will clash at HQ on Saturday in one which promises potential redemption and a return to the glory days for the former – or the climax of an almost impossible fairytale for the latter.
The advent of the Premiership play-offs in 2003 saw Wasps enjoy the greatest era in the club’s history, with four wins in the first six seasons of the new format.
But they’ve failed to make it to Twickenham since that meeting with the Tigers.
The Chiefs, in contrast, have been on a rapid, upwards trajectory, winning top flight promotion in 2011 and battling their way to the Twickenham 12 months ago, beating Wasps 34-23 en route in the semi-final.
This weekend’s showdown in London looks destined to be a high scoring one.
Dai Youngs’ side and Rob Baxter’s Chiefs were by far the two most prolific try scorers during the regular season with 89 and 86 trys respectively. Given that recent Premiership finals have enjoyed a reputation for producing drama, entertainment and plenty of five-pointers, the game is unlikely to be a cagey one.
Both sides finished level on 84 points after 22 league assignments; Wasps finished top, courtesy of winning more games than Exeter, and Youngs’ team hold the upper hand in terms of this season’s head-to-head record, beating the Chiefs 25-20 at the Ricoh Arena in September before drawing 35-35 at Sandy Park in February.
Exeter, though, can take considerable solace from the fact they are the in-form outfit of the two. The Devonians endured a torrid start to their season, winning just twice in their opening seven league fixtures.
Their victory at Newcastle in November proved the catalyst for a remarkable reversal in fortunes and a 16-match unbeaten domestic sequence which has taken them back to Twickenham.
Wasps have never lost in the Premiership final in four appearances.
But the history of the play-off era strikes a cautionary note. In 14 seasons the trophy has only been lifted five times by the club which finished first in the table after 22 games and all four of Wasps’ Twickenham triumphs in the 2000s came after the team had finished as runners-up.
The betting makes Youngs’ team the favourites at HQ at 77/100 while the Chiefs are 51/50 to become the ninth different team to be crowned champions of England. The draw, which would send the Premiership’s showpiece game into extra-time for only the second time in the tournament’s history, is 21/1.
Wasps’ perceived marginal edge over their rivals is reflected on the betting slip; the Ricoh Arena outfit is 19/5 to triumph by 13 points or more, while Exeter are 5/1 to register a similarly convincing points difference.
It’s the same story in terms of the team to score first on Saturday, with Wasps 17/20 to draw first blood compared to 23/25 on the Chiefs.
There is, however, nothing to separate the pair when it comes to the chances of a drop goal being the first scoring play at HQ. Both protagonists are rated 55/1 to open their account with what would the first open play three-pointer in the final since Peter Hewat knocked one over for London Irish eight years ago.
For more rugby odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s rugby union betting.
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