Wasps, Exeter power into Premiership final

London (AFP) –

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Wasps and Exeter will meet in the English Premiership final after thrashing Bristol and Bath in the play-off semi-finals on Saturday.

Wasps powered into their first Premiership final since 2017 with a brilliant 47-24 demolition of Bristol at the Ricoh Arena.

Lee Blackett's side made it 12 wins from their last 13 Premiership matches and they were joined in the final by Exeter, who crushed Bath 35-6 at Sandy Park.

Wasps and Exeter are scheduled to play the final at Twickenham on October 24.

Malakai Fekitoa, Jack Willis, Dan Robson, Zach Kibirige and Matteo Minozzi all scored tries for Wasps, while Jimmy Gopperth converted nine kicks out of 11 attempts.

Battered Bristol, who play Toulon in the European Challenge Cup final next week, managed tries in reply by Luke Morahan, Harry Thacker, Max Malins and Harry Randall, with Callum Sheedy adding two conversions.

"Joe Launchbury addressed the team afterwards, and his big comment was to enjoy it, but that we haven't played our final," Blackett said of the Wasps captain's post-match rallying cry.

"Sometimes you think you have played your final to get there, and there is a lot of emotion gone in, so we just need to control ourselves.

"Yes, enjoy it, but in two weeks' time we have got a big game coming up. It is about keeping our emotions under wraps."

Bristol rugby director Pat Lam added: "We turned the ball over 23 times and we gave away eight penalties on attack, which meant we couldn't get a foothold in the game. But you have got to give a lot of credit to Wasps."

After one of the most difficult weeks in Premiership history, Wasps put the focus back on the pitch with a swaggering performance.

Sale Sharks' climax to the regular season last weekend was postponed by three days after 16 players and three staff tested positive for Covid-19, only for an additional eight positive tests forcing the match to be forfeited on Wednesday.

It meant Wasps and Bristol did not know their play-off opponents for sure until 72 hours before kick-off, yet Blackett's men never looked shaken by their disrupted build-up.

Wasps will be bidding for a seventh Premiership crown and their first since 2008, while Exeter have a domestic and European double in their sights.

Tries for Jonny Hill -- who crossed twice -- Luke Cowan-Dickie and Stuart Hogg fuelled Exeter's win, with fly-half Joe Simmonds delivering a man of the match display.

Next stop on Exeter's silverware quest is Saturday's European Champions Cup final against Racing 92 before a fifth successive appearance in the Premiership showpiece.

Exeter last won the Premiership final in 2017 after finishing as runners-up to Saracens in 2018 and 2019.