Exeter Chiefs 31 Racing 92 27: Devon misfits lift Champions Cup in dramatic finish after fairytale rise

EXETER CHIEFS proved the impossible is possible as they completed rugby's latest fairytale in dramatic style.

The Chiefs were crowned kings of Europe just ten years after winning promotion from the Championship on this very same pitch.



The misfits from Devon, Cornwall and everywhere in-between held their nerve to cling on at the death in a bizarre ending with just 14 men on the pitch.

They became the 12th club side to lift this iconic trophy as the Sandy Park dynasty came to life.

Led by their former player, captain, board member and now boss, Rob Baxter, it was the ultimate story of local lads turning good.

Baxter, the sheep farmer from the West Country, has been associated with this side for almost 30 years now.

Every time people cry out for him to lead England, he goes on to take Exeter to another level.

Tries from local lads Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds and Henry Slade, as well as England prop Harry Williams, saw them home in a game that they led 14-0 before being pegged back to just a point in it with 15 minutes to go.

And after a nail-biting finish, Baxter said: "It is incredible – it's an incredible story for these guys and this club – it was a horrible game to watch and that last 15 minutes went on forever, but we have seen it out and it looks like it was meant to be.

"I am glad we went for it like Exeter and didn't just try and ease our way through, as we would have lost, so I am glad we got through it.



"They have made a lot of sacrifices to get to this stage and haven't had their friends, family and supporters see them in the biggest game of their lives.

"There is a nice symmetry to a lot of things that have happened today. I don't know how to express it, a lot of lads are upset! A few saying we were awful!

"Some are crying, some delighted – some can hardly talk, some are over the moon – that is what rugby is about and we got the emotions right."

Exeter's machine pulverised Racing 92 early on.

Then Finn Russell popped up with the magic for both of Simon Zebo's tries, as Scotland and Ireland combined to attempt to take down England.


Rookie fly-half Joe Simmonds, just 23 and skippering his side, held his nerve to deal with Russell's magic as the Scot cost his French outfit two tries.

Winger Juan Imhoff helped bring things to within two points before the break, but Russell's howler saw Williams pile over – and with Simmonds' kick, Exeter were in charge at 21-12.

Zebo and Racing didn't give up.

The three-times beaten finalists took Exeter all the way thanks to the Irishman's second score.

Slade capitalised on another Russell clanger, though, and with Simmonds' conversion they edged nine clear.


However, Camille Chat bundled over and Maxime Machenaud converted before another penalty from the sub scrum-half brought it to within a point with 15 minutes to go.

Tomas Francis' yellow card for a knock-on could have been terminal, but Simmonds junior kicked the winning points after Sam Hidalgo-Clyne's try line jackal killed off Racing as they refused to kick a drop-goal to win it.

And man-of-the-match Simmonds added: "It hasn't sunk in.

"We have been hurting for the last few years losing finals. When that final whistle went, the emotion from everyone – I was welling up a bit and to have my brother beside me was massive. I think we can go far. All week we knew they had a lot of threats." 

 

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