Welsh international winger Tom James got his Exeter Chiefs career up and running with two barnstorming tries in the 30-26 victory over London Wasps at Sandy Park in the Aviva Premiership.
The 26-year-old, who joined in the summer from the Cardiff Blues, showed his blistering pace with a pair of fine individual efforts either side of half time on his home debut.
Andy Goode kept Wasps in the hunt with the boot but it looked all over for the London outfit after James’ brace and a further score from James Scaysbrook.
But in the last ten minutes Christian Wade sliced through the Exeter defence and Ashley Johnson – who saw yellow in the first half – touched down to make the final seconds nervy for the home side.
Wasps started the game well, a penalty against Scaysbrook at the breakdown giving Goode his first shot at goal and he bisected the posts.
Wasps continue to pressure the home side and Exeter were again penalised for collapsing a maul giving Goode his second three-pointer, which he slotted inside the right hand upright to make it 6-0.
Exeter woke up and No.8 Dave Ewers led an attack into the Wasps 22 that Tom Johnson took up, but they were grateful for Wasps not rolling away as the attack began to falter. That gave Irishman Gareth Steenson his first penalty attempt and he reduced the deficit with ease.
Stringing together their first real period of possession, a quick throw-in from Phil Dolman caught Wasps napping and the ball was taken deep into the Wasps 22, with Ewers held up over the line.
The ball was recycled along the line to James and with men on the outside the Welshman threw a clever dummy and ran in for his first try for Exeter. Steenson added the extras with aplomb to make it 10-6 with 17 minutes to the interval.
Wasps almost struck straight back as Exeter skipper Dean Mumm was penalised for a high tackle on Andrea Masi but Goode’s penalty effort from fully 49 metres missed the posts.
But the former England man was successful shortly after as the Chiefs gave away another penalty for collapsing the scrum and the gap returned to a single point.
A wonderful restart from Steenson was gathered by Ian Whitten as Exeter surged forward to win another penalty, Steenson converting from 25 metres.
Ashley Johnson earned himself a spell in the sin bin shortly before the break when his high tackle on Haydn Thomas floored the scrum-half.
It was an easy three points for Steenson as Exeter opened up a seven-point gap on the visitors, but Wasps attacked with gusto as the clock ticked down to half-time with Exeter defending desperately on their own try line.
Exeter eventually gave away a penalty for entering from the side and Goode kept Wasps in the hunt with his five penalty of the afternoon.
After the restart play swung from end to end before Exeter took the game by the scruff of the neck. First Dolman sent a grubber kick through for James with Wade getting there quickly only to spill the ball and allow Scaysbrook to dot down, Steenson adding the extras.
Masi then prevented another Exeter score with a magnificent try-saving tackle on Thomas, but shortly after the ball was flung wide to James who beat his marker and streaked away from the defence to run in from 50 metres.
Steenson’s conversion seemed to put the game to bed, but with 11 minutes remaining Wade slipped through a gap between Steenson and Tom Johnson to score with Goode converting.
And with Wasps knocking on the door and Exeter defending desperately Johnson was bundled over with two minutes to go, Goode’s conversion making it a four-point game.
However, Exeter had done enough to hold on with Wasps seemingly satisfied to leave Sandy Park with a bonus point.