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What 'hugely proud' Rob Baxter told Exeter players after Champions Cup exit

By PA
Rob Baxter, the Exeter Chiefs director of rugby looks on after his teams defeat during the Investec Champions Cup Quarter Final match between Stade Toulousain and Exeter Chiefs at Stade Ernest Wallon on April 14, 2024 in Toulouse, France. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter said he was “hugely proud” of his players despite seeing them exit the Investec Champions Cup following a heavy quarter-final defeat to Toulouse.

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Toulouse, looking to become European champions for a record-extending sixth time, were in scintillating form in the French sunshine, producing a powerful and vibrant second-half showing that eventually saw them seal a 64-26 at the Stade Ernest Wallon.

Scotland international full-back Blair Kinghorn led the way for the hosts, scoring two tries in a personal haul of 23 points, while further tries came from Romain Ntamack, Jack Willis, Antoine Dupont and braces from Jean Cruz Mallia and Pita Ahki.

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The Chiefs fought valiantly throughout, especially in the first half where they trailed 17-16 at the break. However, scores from Ethan Roots and Zack Wimbush, plus the boot of Henry Slade, were not enough to see them advance into the last four.

“I have to say I’m hugely proud of the players for the commitment they put into the game,” said Baxter. “I think I couldn’t have asked anything more of them for what they’ve laid on the line, both physically and emotionally.

“When we came in at half-time, I think we had done a lot of what we wanted to do. The game was hugely competitive, we were right in the mix, and we put an awful lot physically into the game. In the second half, we probably couldn’t maintain our quality in a couple of key areas.”

Match Summary

1
Penalty Goals
4
9
Tries
2
8
Conversions
2
0
Drop Goals
0
118
Carries
104
14
Line Breaks
3
11
Turnovers Lost
16
12
Turnovers Won
4

With a wealth of stars in their ranks, Toulouse used all of their big-game experience to pull clear after the break and set themselves up for a home semi-final against Harlequins, who had defeated Bordeaux-Begles on their own patch just 24 hours earlier.

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“As I’ve just said to the lads, I could not have asked them to commit any fuller than they did,” added Baxter. “When you commit fully to things and put everything into the game, like they did today, that’s how you gain the most experience.

“I remember coming to Clermont all those years ago, coming away with a heavy defeat, yet feeling we didn’t really fire a shot. You can’t say that about today’s performance, I thought our guys did everything they could and in the end you have to congratulate Toulouse on their performance.”

Like Baxter, Toulouse skills coach Jerome Kaino was proud of his side’s efforts as they advanced further into Europe’s top club competition.

“First half, I thought Exeter put us under a lot of pressure,” said the former All Blacks star. “We weren’t able to keep the ball as well as we wanted to, but credit to Exeter for that. They are a class outfit, but I am extremely proud at the way the boys came out in that second half.

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“We’re now very excited about the semi-final. This a very special competition for us and to be able to earn another week in the competition is awesome. We’re a happy camp, but we know we’ve not achieved anything yet.”

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Abe 3 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

11 Go to comments
T
Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

17 Go to comments
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