Rob Baxter admitted his emotions were “all over the place” after Exeter’s thrilling Heineken Champions Cup final victory against Racing 92. Exeter were crowned kings of Europe for the first time following a 31-27 success at Ashton Gate that saw the teams share eight tries before Chiefs captain Joe Simmonds settled the nerves with an 80th-minute penalty.
There was even a pause before the final whistle following Simmonds’ penalty as officials checked whether there was any time left to still be played, but referee Nigel Owens blew and Exeter could celebrate.
“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. The occasion itself was a little bit different from some of the other things we have experienced.
“But when we had to, we saw it through. We won the game by four points on the scoreboard, and that is pretty much what people will ever remember in three or four years’ time. We have had our first go at a European semi-final and a final and we have won them both. It’s great for this group of players.”
The Chiefs conquered Europe in only their tenth season as a top-flight team, ultimately flooring the French heavyweights through a combination of irresistible forward power and ruthless finishing.
The 2020 final had it all, including confusion at the finish over timekeeping ?? https://t.co/3LEsZzqBLq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 17, 2020
A gripping game saw the teams trade blow after blow before Exeter prevailed through scores by hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, No8 Sam Simmonds, prop Harry Williams and centre Henry Slade, with Joe Simmonds kicking four conversions and a late penalty after prop Tomas Francis had been sin-binned.
Full-back Simon Zebo touched down twice for Racing, while wing Juan Imhoff and hooker Camille Chat also crossed, with Maxime Machenaud adding a penalty and conversion and fly-half Finn Russell one conversion. A tearful Baxter called his wife Jo at full-time from the pitch after the behind-closed-doors Champions Cup final. He added: “I’m a bit all over the place. I told her I would definitely be home tonight! She was pretty emotional, and it made me a bit emotional.
“We have been together a long time – my whole career – and she has seen the highs and lows. It was a special couple of minutes. To start with she was just screaming at me in emotional joy, and then we managed to have a few words and talked about the journey and it was a nice few minutes.”
Exeter will complete a domestic and European double – a feat achieved by only three other English clubs – if they beat Wasps in next Saturday’s Gallagher Premiership title showdown.
Exeter have lost three of the last four Premiership finals, but they are now 80 minutes away from cleaning up in England and Europe this season. Baxter told BT Sport after the Champions Cup final: “It was a horrible game to watch, and that last 14 minutes went on forever, but we have seen it out and it looks like it was meant to be.
“It is fighting for every inch, and I thought that was the bit we were good at. I am glad we went for it like Exeter and didn’t just try and ease our way through, as we would have lost, so I am glad we got through it. I won’t worry about the elusive double right now.
“The important thing is the lads get in the changing rooms and have a couple of lagers together. We have got to enjoy the moment and the bus ride home and savour the feeling. I would like to think that today’s result and not playing as well as we could will free us up against Wasps and we can play better.”
“I’m sure the lessons we have learnt from our various encounters in Europe this season will ultimately stand us in good stead in the long run”
– So wrote Tony Rowe in January 2013. His Exeter are now European champions and here's how they rated ?? https://t.co/9z3ZpQEsxq
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 17, 2020
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