Steenson kicks Exeter to Premiership glory

gareth steenson premiership final exeter chiefs wasp
15 January 2017; Gareth Steenson of Exeter Chiefs ahead of the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 5 Round 5 match between Exeter Chiefs and Ulster at Sandy Park in Exeter, England. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Gareth Steenson showed nerves of steel to kick Exeter Chiefs to a first-ever Premiership title at Twickenham, as they edged out Wasps after extra-time in a thrilling climax to the English league season.

The Dungannon fly half, 33, levelled things up with a penalty just ten seconds from time to force an additional 20-minute period, and then kicked the Chiefs to Premiership glory with another penalty three minutes before the end of extra-time to clinch a 23-20 victory over Wasps.

Steenson, who represented Ireland at Under 19 and Under 21 levels, was part of the Exeter side which won promotion to the Premiership by winning the Championship in 2009/10 – Steenson kicking 24 points to help Exeter upset Bristol in the final second leg at the Memorial Ground.

Seven years on, Saturday’s triumph completes a fairytale rise for the club from English rugby’s second-tier to champions to England.

Victory also made up for Steenson and Exeter’s defeat to Saracens in the 2015/16 Premiership final, when they were comprehensively beaten by Saracens.

Prayer

“To be fair before the last penalty I said a prayer to the old man upstairs and he helped me with it,” said Steenson, whose late father, John, passed away just before he moved from Cornish Pirates to Exeter Chiefs in 2008.

“After last season the guys got a taste for it and we are delighted be sitting where we are.

“The kicks in the Championship Final back in 2010 were pretty big because we wouldn’t have days like this without them.

“But to be honest with you I was pleased today they were in reasonable positions. I just had to go through my processes and my technique and hopefully it would stand up firm.

“The graft that we have put in down the years was for days like today and we are absolutely thrilled. It means a lot to a lot of people, we are delighted.”

Consistent

Since winning promotion to the Premiership with the Chiefs in 2009/10, Steenson has been one of the league’s most consistent fly halves. Having narrowly missed out to Freddie Burns for the Premiership’s Golden Boot in 2012/13, he did walk away with the award in 2015/16, however, full Ireland international recognition has continued to allude him.

England and future Lion Jack Nowell had earlier finished in the corner to help Chiefs open up a 14-3 lead with Phil Dollman also going over.

Former Leinster fly half Jimmy Gopperth pulled a try back for Wasps with Elliot Daly grabbing got another as Wasps rallied either side of half time, before but Steenson took centre stage to dramatically level the game at 20-20 and then hold his nerve again in extra-time to make history for the Chiefs.


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