Wasps director of rugby Dai Young admitted even he had struggled to keep his eyes open for Jimmy Gopperth’s decisive conversion, after his side came out on top of a thrilling European encounter with Exeter Chiefs.
The west country outfit led 14-6 at the interval, after two quick-fire Thomas Waldrom tries had cancelled out two Gopperth penalties.
But after Charles Piutau and Harry Williams exchanged scores, Frank Halai crashed over to bring the hosts within a converted try.
And as the clock ticked into the red, Wasps broke Exeter hearts with that man Piutau shrugging off his defender to score and set up Gopperth’s brilliant kick from out wide under immense pressure.
As well as sending the 23,866 spectators inside the Ricoh Arena home happy, the result sends Wasps through to their first European semi-final since 2007, and struck a huge psychological blow to the Chiefs ahead of the Aviva Premiership Rugby run in.
“It was a great game that could have gone either way,” said Young. “And you’ve obviously got to give Exeter a lot of credit, as the stuff they do really well they did again today.
“You know when they get inside your 22 they will cause you problems with their driving lineout and their pick-and-go-game.
“The target for us was not to give them too many platforms inside our 22, but when they got two scores in front I imagine most people thought the game was going to go away from us.
“We didn’t panic, although we’d had plenty of possession without causing Exeter too many problems in the first half, as their defence was excellent.
“We felt if we kept on playing and kept knocking on that door, at some stage it would open for us, but it would have been a lot better for the nerves if it had been in the 29th minute rather than the 79th minute.
“Fair play to Jimmy, you’ve got to give him credit as it wasn’t an easy kick. Not many people in the stadium were watching it with two eyes open, and if it was going a little bit to the left the Wasps fans blew it back in.”
Exeter were making their debut at this stage of the European Champions Cup, and certainly acquitted themselves well in a showcase of Aviva Premiership Rugby talent.
And while a crestfallen Rob Baxter was able to take the blow on the chin, he insisted he could not be prouder of his side’s showing.
He said: “It was two good sides going at it hammer and tongs. One team had to win it and that wasn't us.
“I am really proud of how we turned up here. We have shown some really good qualities and I think that is what games of rugby should be about.
“I'll be honest, it is very disappointing. The reality is that if that last kick misses or we force an error in that last passage of play, we win and are over the moon and we wouldn't have played any differently.
“We have contributed to a really good game of rugby. At the end of the day, whichever way that final kick went would not have been the right or wrong answer because both teams could have been justified in winning the game.”
Wasps: Piutau C, Wade, Daly, Piutau S, Halai, Gopperth, Robson, Mullan (McIntyre 59), Festuccia (Johnson 51), Cooper-Woolley, Launchbury, Myall (Davies 21), Haskell (Young 59), Smith, Hughes
Replacements not used: Cittadini, Simpson, Jackson, Miller
Exeter Chiefs: Turner, Nowell, Slade, Whitten (Campagnaro 70), Woodburn, Steenson, Chudley, Moon (Hepburn 58), Cowan-Dickie (Yeandle 66), Low (Williams 21), Lees (56), Parling, Armand, Salvi (Ewers 58), Waldrom
Replacements not used: Lewis, Short
Tries: C Piutau 2, Halai
Conversions: Gopperth 2
Penalties: Gopperth 2
Tries: Waldrom 2, Williams
Conversions: Steenson 3
Referee: Romain Poite (Fra)