Exeter Chiefs: European Champions Bring Glory to Devon

Exeter are Minnows No More after Becoming European Champions

by Maghnus Dunne

Exeter Chiefs saw themselves crowned European Champions on Saturday evening after a 31-27 victory over Parisian side Racing 92 at Ashton Gate.

The Chiefs took a commanding lead early within the first 19 minutes of the game with a 14-0 lead thanks to Luke Cowan Dickie and Sam Simmonds, both of whom scored tries for the Devon-based side.

The game took a competitive turn as Racing 92 then dusted off their early woes. The French outfit got themselves within two points when Simon Zebo brushed off the Exeter backline with a surge of power to score a fine try.

Racing quickly followed that try up, doubling their score thanks to Juan Jose Imhoff. The Argentine fullback stole through Chiefs defence, cutting through a gap with Chiefs centre David Ewers left looking on in despair.

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A see-saw contest

With the score line cut 14-12, Exeter began to re-establish their lead. Harry Williams scored a try just before the end of the first half’s proceedings with Simmonds’ conversion giving Exeter some breathing space at the interval, with the lead was stretched to 21-12.

Racing came straight out of the blocks and wasted no time at all, Irishman Simon Zebo scoring within 90 seconds of the restart. The Irish winger powered through the Chiefs backline to bring the score within four points, giving Rob Baxter’s men a ringing alarm call.

In a game where any mistake could be costly, Racing’s Scottish superstar Finn Russell made a major error with a loose pass. England winger Jack Nowell seized on it, before the Scot’s error was punished by Henry Slade who galloped through to touch down.

Sam Simmonds converted, extending the Devon side’s lead to 28-17 and making sure the Parisian outfit stayed just out of touching distance.

Camille Chat would keep Racing in the tie, after scoring a try from that replacement Maxime Machenuad converted.  The score stood at 28-24 going into the final 20 minutes of the Champions Cup final, with the tension levels rising.

Machenaud scored a penalty for Racing, with a single-point gap gaving the final of the Champion’s Cup a nail-biting finish with only 14 minutes remaining.

Tomas Francis saw himself yellow carded, but a nervy finish was topped off with a somewhat fairy-tale ending. Sam Simmonds struck a last gasp penalty through the posts and after a few moments of controversial waiting while referee Nigel Owens confirmed that the game was over, Exeter were crowned European Champions.

Scottish stars share a beer

There was a pleasing post-match picture that summed up the spirit of rugby union. Scottish internationals Finn Russell of Racing and Stuart Hogg of Exeter were snapped sharing a beer in the stands.

The fly half has returned to the Scotland national side after “patching up” things with coach Gregor Townsend. Scotland face Georgia on Saturday at Murrayfield, as they warm up for the postponed Six Nations tournament, where they will face Wales in the opening game.

For the latest Six Nations odds, go to Betway. They are offering a price of 2/1 on Scotland beating Wales in Cardiff in their Six Nations clash.

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