Racing failed to get the job done in last Saturday’s Champions Cup final against an Exeter team that was down 14 players for the closing minutes, but Simon Zebo believes the English club should have been permanently down a man for most of the second half. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Exeter had prop Tomas Francis sin-binned in the 71st minute for a deliberate knock-on as Racing chased down the one-point margin that existed between the teams at that time. 

However, Zebo, who scored two tries in the final that Racing were to lose 31-27, has claimed Exeter’s Henry Slade should have been red-carded for his 42nd minute high tackle on Juan Imhoff. 

Video Spacer

Video Spacer
Dylan Hartley revisits his infamous red card in the 2013 Premiership final

Instead of seeing red, Slade was allowed to continue as the incident was adjudged to have been a penalty offence only and salt was quickly rubbed into the Racing wound minutes later as the Exeter midfielder scored a try after Finn Russell had a pass intercepted.

“There’s just a few things that didn’t go our way, it was like it just wasn’t meant to be,” said Zebo during his co-host appearance on the RugbyPass Offload show with Dylan Hartley, the retired ex-England captain. “That high tackle on Juan Imhoff, he nearly takes his head off, that’s a red card. We just couldn’t believe it. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

It wasn’t the only incident that left Racing feeling hard done by, the French club of the belief that Exeter didn’t legally defend their line in the pressure that was built after Francis was yellow-carded. “I wasn’t in earshot of what we being said,” said Zebo, in reference to the last-minute situation regarding referee Nigel Owens and the clock.

ADVERTISEMENT

“But it was a few decisions earlier that went against us that probably upset the forwards and the team more. There was a maul we had five metres out and it’s even harder to look at now. We’re scoring a try with five minutes left. I don’t know his name but the baldy guy for Exeter, part of the maul breaks off and he couldn’t come in the side anymore and take down out maul. 

“It kills momentum and then after that you have the issue with Sam Hidalgo, whether Anthony Claassens goes and reaches out and they get the penalty, whether he comes in from the side or whether it’s over the line or should be a scrum to us, whatever.

“There’s loads of different interpretations but the five-metre maul where they come in from the side and collapse, that was just killer and it’s the difference – the difference between us having a star on our jersey and them having a star on their jersey. We’re just very disappointed with that but we’re not saying it’s Nigel. There is plenty of eyes there.” 

That play took place with Zebo off the pitch having been replaced by Kurtley Beale despite scoring two Racing tries. “I was cramping up a bit,” he explained. “The coach saw me stretching a few times. He saw me stretching and gave me an ‘are you okay, thumbs up, thumbs down?’ I was like I’m okay, it was just in between play I was trying to stretch out a bit. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“Obviously it’s a final, if I have to sprint I’ll sprint. I didn’t want to come off with cramp. I felt like I could go again and get a third (try). I was feeling confident and when you’re in a good groove, in that mood, it was unfortunate. 

“Kurtley is world class. He is such an asset to have in our team so bringing him off the bench isn’t a loss in any shape, way or form. It’s just I would have preferred to have maybe shifted to wing or for him to have come on at No12 or have gotten a few minutes playing together in the final. It would be been a bit better.”  

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now