'Iribaren could be their man of the match' - Fans shocked at Racing halfback's Champions Cup final performance
Exeter’s thrilling 31-27 victory over Parisian club Racing 92 will be remembered for the Devon-club’s goal line defence to prevent Racing from taking the lead with 10-minutes to go, but it was one very forgettable night for Racing scrumhalf Teddy Iribaren.
The French halfback was benched at halftime, replaced by Maxime Machenaud, after a horrific showing in the first half that allowed Exeter to race out to a 14-0 lead. Machenaud was seen warming up after just 25-minutes after a host of Iribaren errors handed momentum to the Chiefs.
Iribaren’s night started with a failed touch finder in just the second minute, squandering an early penalty just past halfway by kicking the ball dead and letting Exeter off the hook when a line out from inside their 22 beckoned.
A short while later, the 9 inexplicably took a quick throw in to himself after a long Jack Nowell exit kick. Exeter pinned the isolated halfback and earned a holding-on penalty resulting in a 90-metre territory and possession swing that the Chiefs scored their first try from.
His performance went from bad to worse, throwing a high-risk pass in-field after coving a territorial kick from Joe Simmonds. Instead of letting the ball roll into touch, giving his side the throw, Iribaren grabbed the ball at the last second before throwing a loose pass to Juan Imhoff. Exeter’s kick chase unit swarmed the winger and won another penalty, kicking to the corner.
After Exeter knocked on from the line out throw, Iribaren’s misplaced pass from the five metre scrum to Finn Russell for the clearing kick was knocked on in the in-goal, almost leading to a gift try to the Chiefs.
If that wasn’t enough, the scrumhalf then gave away two straight penalties as his side tried to defend their own line. Exeter barged over shortly after to score their second try through Sam Simmonds.
Fans were shocked at how irresponsible Racing’s halfback was, with one fan labelling his performance as ‘the worst opening 15 minutes I’ve ever seen’, another calling for an early subsitution as he was ‘all over the shop’.
Despite Iribaren’s nightmare opening stanza, Racing were able to hit back each and every time Exeter were able to score with missed conversions ultimately being the difference between the two sides.
A sublime pass from Finn Russell reminiscent of his famous passes for Scotland, found Simon Zebo out wide who streaked away to score in the corner to cut Exeter’s lead back to 14-5.
A cheeky dart from Juan Imhoff became Racing’s second, as the Argentine winger ghosted over to score untouched from the base of the ruck after a weight of possession by Racing. At 14-12 the French club were well and truly back in the match but conceded a costly try to Harry Williams on the stroke of the halftime to go into the sheds down 21-12.
Zebo scored his second try shortly after the resumption of play after a high shot from Henry Slade gave Racing an early attacking opportunity. Finn Russell gave the points straight back when Jack Nowell intercepted the flyhalf just outside Racing’s 22. The England winger found centre Slade with an offload and Exeter extended their lead to 28-17 again.
When Camille Chat scored to reduce the gap to 28-24, half an hour remained. Both sides kicked penalty goals in a frantic final 30 to leave a four point difference between the two sides at full time.
After the game, Exeter’s Director of Rugby said it wasn’t his usual side that showed up, saying that Exeter’s performance had some of the ‘poorest attack and poorest defence’ he’d seen all season.
“My emotions are all over the place,” Exeter rugby director Baxter said.
“It was a funny game, wasn’t it? It kind of wasn’t an Exeter Chiefs type of game, yet we ended up winning it. We didn’t really piece the game together at all.
“In some ways, it was some of our poorest attack and poorest defence of the season.”
It was Racing 92’s third Champions Cup final loss after defeats to Saracens in 2016 and Leinster in 2018. They will be left to rue a final 10-minutes in which they turned down a penalty shot from the sideline to push for a try.
Trailing by just two points, the French club refused to take the three or set-up for a drop goal despite multiple phases in front of Exeter’s posts. After a long period of possession, a turnover on the goal line in the 75th minute after 19 phases killed off Racing’s chances.
They were unable to get back into Exeter 22 and watched as Joe Simmonds kicked a long-range penalty as time expired.
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