Exeter owner Tony Rowe has admitted the celebrations that followed last Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse at Sandy Park took their toll, leaving the telecoms entrepreneur feeling more than worse for wear the following morning.
The win by the Chiefs was the first time they have reached a European final and they are now on course for a Premiership and Champions Cup double as they are also in the semi-finals of the league after topping the table in regulation-season play.
Exeter will have a home semi-final in the Premiership on the weekend of October 10 and will then face Racing in the European showpiece on October 17 in Bristol.
That appearance will mark the high point in the long Rowe investment in Exeter, funding which guided the club from the lower leagues in England right to the top of the sport, and he wasn’t letting last Saturday’s breakthrough pass without recognition.
Speaking to The Rugby Pod following the defeat of Toulouse, Rowe explained his emotions and how his body felt after a celebratory Exeter beer or two at Sandy Park. “Rough, rough,” he quipped. “It was a bit of an anti-climax as you can imagine. The thing was it was really fantastic but only when I went back to the changing room with the lads.
There's just no stopping @ExeterChiefs from there ?
A string of powerful forward phases before @HarryWilliams91 burrows over for his first of the day ?
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) September 28, 2020
“Then I had to leave them and someone had smuggled some beer in disguised as water. I went back upstairs because we are only allowed a couple of people to the game, my wife was there and that. I was feeling a bit lonely. I buzzed down to Rob Baxter and said, ‘Look mate, why don’t you come upstairs with the coaches?’ Wrong thing to do. Rob couldn’t because he was going home. But all the coaches descended on us and drunk us dry. Sunday morning, I was a bit of a mess.”
No fans were allowed into Sandy Park to watch the European semi-final and it pains Rowe that these restrictions will continue throughout October. “Everybody knows what my ambition, the club’s ambition and Rob’s ambition is and we are within touching distance but there was no one there to share it.
“The way they televise it now when you’re sat at home watching the game you get a bit of an atmosphere because they double it [the sound] but when you’re actually in the ground it is a hollow silence. It’s a shame because we have got some fantastic supporters at Exeter and they just couldn’t be there on the day. We have just got to be grateful I suppose that we are still here, still alive, and we have just got to get through this horrible thing [the pandemic].
“On Saturday there was about half a dozen trying to make the noise for 14,000 people… we made as much noise as we could and that is probably why I needed a lot of medicine afterwards,” he said, adding how he took great pride that many of Exeter’s team had come through the club’s academy.
“I’m pretty sure on Saturday there were nine starting lads that had come through our academy structure and that is brilliant. A lot of players are very transient and spend two years here and two years there, but I’d like to think a lot of our homegrown boys will stay.
“It means in time you will amass more of your homegrown talent. Rob and I share an ambition to one day see a Premiership team we put on the field of all homegrown players and we’re 60 per cent of the way there at the moment.”
"Big games of rugby, they are like boxing matches"
– A beaming Rob Baxter hails Exeter's progress to a first European final
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 26, 2020
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