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

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.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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