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Exeter Chiefs are champions of Europe with victory over Racing 92

Saracens, Leicester Tigers, Wasps, Northampton Saints and Bath. Before today just five English teams had won European’s top prize, but now Exeter Chiefs have their name on the trophy after a thrilling 31-27 victory over Racing 92 in the Heinenek Champions Cup final to secure their place amongst the legends of the game.

Back in 1996 when the first European final was held and Toulouse beat Cardiff 21-18, Exeter Chiefs were closing out a promotion season from the Courage League Division 4, the fourth tier of English rugby and now, 24 years later the Chiefs have joined European’s elite.

The journey Exeter have been on with Tony Rowe and Rob Baxter has been regularly documented, but by adding the European trophy they’ve now won each of the major trophies adding the Champions Cup to the 2013-14 and 17-18 LV Anglo Welsh Cup’s and the 2017 Premiership title.

At Ashton Gate on Saturday, Exeter got off to a dream start, opening the scoring with less than ten minutes on the clock.

The Chiefs exploited the Racing defence and used their powerful forward pack to propel a fast-moving driving maul towards the French line, allowing Luke Cowan-Dickie to crash over for the game’s opening score.

Racing almost gifted Exeter a second try just minutes after following a sloppy error, but the Chiefs did add a second when Sam Simmonds forced his way over the line with some help from the shoulder of Dave Ewers.

The French side responded with a try of their own through Simon Zebo after a magical pass from Finn Russell managed to evade the hands of O’Flaherty, who was looking to intercept, to fall neatly into the Irish international’s hands.

And Racing added another try when Racing winger Juan Imhoff cut through the Exeter defensive line with ease to score his sides second.

But in the final moments of the half the Chiefs added a crucial third when, after a sustained period of pressure, prop Harry Williams barged over to give Exeter a 21-12 lead at half-time.

After the break, Racing started the second-half as the Chiefs did the first, with a quick try. The French side spread the ball wide through their back-line to Zebo who finished well to dot down his second of the game.

However, Racing’s dent into the Chiefs’ lead didn’t last long, with Rob Baxter’s side adding a fourth try moments later.

Russell tried another magical pass, but it was plucked from the air by Jack Nowell who raced towards the try-line before offloading to Henry Slade who crossed under the posts.



Exeter Chiefs celebrate at the final whistle of the European Champions Cup Final at Ashton Gate

The French side would just not give up however, adding their fourth try through hooker Camile Chat from a driving maul, after some strong play from Russell, making up for his earlier error.

Exeter pushed Racing’s defence hard, looking to extend their lead, but after nearly twenty phases the Chiefs conceded a penalty.

Both sides continued to push for what would potentially be the winning try, and Racing closed the gap to a point via a penalty from the boot of Maxime Machenaud.

At times Racing looked the most likely to score the winning try, and their pursuit of the victory was aided by the yellow card of Tomas Francis for a deliberate knock-on in his own 22.

With the man advantage Racing through everything they had at the Exeter line, but after a huge defensive shift of nineteen phases the Chiefs defence held strong and won a penalty on their own line through scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne of all people, jackling over the ball, which allowed them to clear their lines.

And with just a minute to go, the Chiefs were rewarded a penalty within range of the posts, Joe Simmonds’ kick was over and despite confusion with the timings, the clock had ticked into the red and Exeter Chiefs were European Champions.



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Exeter Chiefs: 15  Stuart Hogg, 14  Jack Nowell, 13  Henry Slade, 12  Ian Whitten, 11  Tom O’Flaherty, 10  Joe Simmonds, 9  Jack Maunder; 1  Alec Hepburn, 2  Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3  Harry Williams, 4  Jonny Gray, 5  Jonny Hill, 6  Dave Ewers, 7 Jacques Vermuelen, 8  Sam Simmonds.

Replacements: 16  Jack Yeandle, 17  Ben Moon, 18  Tomas Francis, 19  Sam Skinner, 20  Jannes Kirsten, 21  Sam Hidalgo-Clyne,22  Gareth Steenson, 23  Ollie Devoto.

Racing 92: 15  Simon Zebo, 14  Louis Dupichot, 13  Virimi Vakatawa, 12  Henry Chavancy, 11  Juan Imhoff, 10  Finn Russell, 9  Teddy Iribaren; 1  Eddy Ben Arous, 2  Camille Chat, 3  Georges-Henri Colombe, 4  Bernard le Roux, 5  Dominic Bird, 6  Wenceslas Lauret, 7  Fabien Sanconnie, 8  Antonie Claasen.

Replacements: 16 Teddy Baubigny, 17  Hassane Kolingar, 18 Ali Oz, 19  Donnacha Ryan, 20  Boris Palu, 21  Maxime Machenaud, 22  Olicier Klemenczak, 23  Kurtley Beale.

Referee: Nigel Owens

Attendance: Behind Closed Doors



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