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Exeter edge spectacular eight-try Champions Cup final thriller against Racing

By PA
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Exeter have won the Champions Cup after beating Racing 92 31-27 in the final at Ashton Gate. Chiefs rugby director Rob Baxter made one change following the semi-final victory over Toulouse, with flanker Jacques Vermeulen replacing Sam Skinner, while Exeter’s England wing Jack Nowell recovered from a foot injury to start.

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Racing, beaten in their two previous Champions Cup final appearances, handed starts to wing Louis Dupichot, centre Henry Chavancy and lock Bernard Le Roux as switches after their semi-final win against Saracens three weeks ago.

Exeter took just eight minutes to make a mark, with hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie scoring the final’s opening try following a driven lineout. Chiefs skipper Joe Simmonds converted and he also added the extras to his brother Sam’s touch down nine minutes later as the Chiefs cruised into a 14-point lead.

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Rob Baxter’s thoughts before the final

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Rob Baxter’s thoughts before the final

Exeter’s forwards ruled the roost, but Racing hit back impressively through tries from full-back Simon Zebo and wing Juan Imhoff during a dominant eleven-minute spell, with Russell, who had earlier almost gifted Exeter a try when he dropped the ball behind his own line, adding one conversion.

Racing had stirred following Exeter’s opening-quarter masterclass, but Exeter pounced for another close-range try on the stroke of half-time as prop Harry Williams touched down and Joe Simmonds converted for a 21-12 interval lead.

There was no let-up in the flow of tries, with Zebo touching down for his second after 43 minutes. Nowell then intercepted an ambitious Russell pass 20 metres from the Racing line and sent centre Henry Slade over.

Joe Simmonds’ fourth successful conversion opened up a 28-17 advantage, yet Racing responded again as hooker Camille Chat crossed for his team’s fourth try and replacement scrum-half Maxime Machenaud converted.

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The final had produced eight tries with more than a quarter of the match remaining, yet Exeter’s lead was just four points. A Machenaud penalty cut the gap to a point, setting up a thrilling finale that saw Exeter’s replacement prop Tomas Francis sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on.

It meant that Exeter finished the game with 14 men, and they had to survive a prolonged spell of Racing pressure as the clock ticked down.

It was a breathless, spellbinding contest but Exeter somehow held on, with Simmonds kicking an 80th-minute penalty as the Chiefs claimed their first European title with an unforgettable 31-27 victory.

Exeter skipper Joe Simmonds told BT Sport: “It hasn’t sunk in. It has been a whole squad effort, and we have been hurting for the last few years losing finals. When that final whistle went, the emotion from everyone, I was welling up a bit, and to have my brother beside me was massive.”

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Simmonds’ brother Sam added: “It’s absolutely massive. It doesn’t matter that there are no fans here, this group is incredible. It is amazing, and I can’t believe it. The fans will feel a lot of pride. To win this and have a chance at the double is huge, and everyone involved in the club is ecstatic.

“For now, we can enjoy this and won’t look towards the game at Twickenham until Monday. This is a huge achievement for the club, and I can’t wait to have a beer with the boys.”

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Shaylen 1 hours 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

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J
Jon 7 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
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