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Champions Cup final's bizarre end: Referee Owens has feisty exchange with his TMO

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

The 2020 Champions Cup final will go down in history as one of the best spectacles ever in the 25-year history of the sparkling European tournament, but it also had a bizarre American football-style review of the clock right at the finish involving Nigel Owens before Exeter were confirmed as 31-27 winners over Racing. 


Veteran Welsh official Owens, taking charge of his seventh European final, initially called time out after he had awarded a last-minute penalty to Exeter with the Chiefs ahead 28-27 in the eight-try thriller. 

Before Exeter had made their decision to kick for the posts, Owens was heard on his referee mic saying to his timekeeper in the stands, “Time out. Stop the clock. Take the clock back six seconds, take the clock back five seconds, please. 

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Rob Baxter’s thoughts leading into the Exeter vs Racing Champions Cup final

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Rob Baxter’s thoughts leading into the Exeter vs Racing Champions Cup final

“There is too many people talking here. Take the clock back five seconds. I have taken the clock back five seconds. The time is 79:32.”

This was followed by a short delay for the kicking tee to arrive for Joe Simmonds. “Give them five seconds from now. It won’t make much difference now. Time is on,” said Owens. TMO Ian Davies was heard replying, “We’re trying to sort that out Nige, don’t worry.”

Simmonds, the 23-year-old Exeter skipper, stepped forward to score the kick but the match then descended into further confusion on the halfway line with Racing lined up for a quick kick-off in the belief there was still time remaining.  

That led to Owens intervening once more. “Hang on, hang on. Time out. We need to be clear what has happened. Hang on. I’m going checking here now. The time keeper didn’t put it on for some reasons. Wait a minute. Captain please come here,” he said, calling over Racing’s Henry Chavancy. 


“I’m going to check with TMO if the clock had gone 80 before the kick is over. If it was it is the end of the game. If it’s not we will be kicking off. Okay? Apologies for this. Right, TM, please confirm for me if time was up before the kick was over?

ID: “Okay Nigel, I will explain what happened. You asked for time to go on. We were working with the producers to get that clock turned on. They were unable to do so when you asked. Okay? However, when the ball crossed the posts it was around 79:57. Okay? The clock should have been in excess of 80 because the clock was not put on.

NO: “Okay, so you’re telling me… all I want to know is when the ball went over the posts was the time up, yes or no? 

ID: “Technically, yes the time was up.” 


NO: “I don’t want your technically. I need to now is the time up yes or no please when the ball went over the post. 

ID: “The clock was on 79:57 when it went over.”

NO: “So, it’s not over then?” 

ID: “I will repeat, when you asked for the clock to be put on we were unable to do so on the TV.” 

NO: “Right, so the time is over, you’re telling me?”

ID: “Yes, the time is over.”

Owens then turned to Racing to say he had just had “confirmation the time is over before the ball was over” the posts from Simmonds kick. He then blew his whistle to signal full-time, confirming Exeter were European champions and leaving Racing to lick the wound of a third Champions Cup final defeat in five seasons. 



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Shaylen 44 minutes ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

12 Go to comments
Jon 6 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
FEATURE Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink