Rob Baxter has hailed the “incredible” Exeter achievement in reaching a first Heineken Champions Cup final. The Chiefs will face French side Racing 92 at Ashton Gate next month, with the winners being crowned kings of Europe.
Ten years after gaining promotion to the Premiership, Exeter now have a domestic and European title double in their sights following a 28-18 semi-final victory over Toulouse behind closed doors at Sandy Park. “It’s incredible,” Exeter rugby director Baxter said. “It’s part of what we are about as a club now, having things to aim for and go for.
“The biggest thing for me now is not just to turn up and take part in the game. It’s to get out on that field to win it. It’s having an 80-minute game plan and having confidence in it and the lads buying into it. That ultimately saw us through today.
“We had to weather the storm, we had to make them work hard for their points, but ultimately that’s what allowed us to get some points later on. Big games of rugby, they are like boxing matches. At some stages, the guy who can’t get his hands up any more can get knocked out. And we created enough of those moments today.
“Everyone bought into the overall 80 minutes. We made Toulouse have to keep getting off the floor and made them have to keep doing something to get metres. Everyone bought into the whole 80-minute thing. What is the best way of fatiguing a big guy? You stick him on the floor and get him to get up.”
Joe Simmonds! That is special! ??
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) September 26, 2020
The Exeter forwards drove them into the final, as prop Harry Williams scored two tries, No8 Sam Simmonds also touched down and skipper Joe Simmonds added a stunning individual score. Fly-half Joe Simmonds, younger brother of Sam, converted all four scores, while replacement lock Alban Placines scored a first-half try for Toulouse, with full-back Thomas Ramos kicking two penalties and converting Matthis Lebel’s consolation touchdown.
Baxter added: “I feel very proud about it, but I feel amazing for the players. This European season has been the longest ever. Our first pool game against La Rochelle was months and months ago, and we started this European journey then.
“Then we had lockdown and our guys stayed in good nick. They worked hard and that has allowed us to push on. You have got to keep handing it back to the players when you see performances like today. It has been a lot of hard work from a lot of good people, and it does feel like a fantastic achievement.
“Going up the road for the final is a reward you get for working hard through the pool. That’s how it works. You go after it in the pool, and you end up being one of the top seeds. We feel we have got the right players fit and fresh at this stage of the season, which is more important than anything else, and it feels like we are coming together at the right time.
“We are still only in a final and a semi-final. We could lose two games, and our season could finish, effectively, so there is still an awful lot for us to have to work for.”
— RugbyPlayersIreland (@RugbyPlayersIRE) September 26, 2020
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