HEAD coach Lee Blackett paid ode to the resilience of his Wasps side after narrowly going down to Exeter Chiefs 19-13 in Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership final.
In a week where Wasps were hit by a string of positive COVID-19 cases that kept Brad Sheilds, Kieran Brookes, Simon McIntyre and Alfie Barbeary out of the Twickenham showpiece, the Ricoh Arena club went narrowly close to denying the Chiefs a domestic and European double.
The rollercoaster affair at the national stadium saw Wasps take the lead through Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty early in the game, prior to a try from Henry Slade that turned the scoreline on its head.
Jacob Umaga’s converted score put Blackett’s side back in front, before two penalties from Joe Simmonds put Exeter ahead going into half-time.
While Gopperth was again on target with another penalty, two further scores kicked between the posts by Simmonds took the Premiership title back to Sandy Park for the second time in Exeter’s history.
And an emotional Blackett expressed his disappointment to have come so near, yet so far after a long, tumultuous season.
“I’m pretty gutted. It’s been an emotional week and there is more emotion now,” he said.
“I’m proud of how we reacted this week and the grit and determination we showed today close to our own line – character, fight, desire.
“Exeter probably had more field position and on reflection probably deserved their win.
“But we had a position with a few minutes to go and we didn’t take it. We’re bitterly disappointed, but there’s no point dwelling on it now. Everyone will look at that but there are lots of little moments in the game.
“I’m proud of how we have come through this period. Some young players have given a really good account of themselves, hopefully this makes us stronger – I’d like to think this is the start of a journey.
“It is going to take a bit of getting over and it will be a challenge with a short off-season, but we have to get over it because we are going to be starting again very soon.”
Indeed, Wasps have little time to prepare for the start of the 2020/21 Premiership campaign, with their opening fixture at home to Bristol Bears taking place on Sunday, November 22 – just 29 days after their final defeat.