Exeter have risen as a giant in the European club scene in recent times and find themselves with a spot in not only the English Premiership final, but that of the Champions Cup as well.
Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic the 2019-20 instalment of the European tournament has been somewhat disrupted with lockdown causing an eight-month doldrum between January and September where no rugby was played. The competition is now, however, back into full swing with much expectation surrounding the final this weekend.
Chiefs are truly deserving final contestants, storming unbeaten through the round stages. In only one game were they unable to wear the victor label – in Round 5 when Glasgow Warriors held them to a 31-all draw.
Rob Baxter’s charges kicked off their campaign with a valuable win over La Rochelle at Stade Marcel-Deflandre back in November 2019. Despite a shaky-looking scrum at times, the Chiefs forwards were tough on their opponents and set a good platform for victory, pacey winger Tom O’Flaherty picking up the man-of-the-match award.
In Round 2, they clashed with a Glasgow Warriors side which held their own in the first half, enjoying a 13-10 lead at the break. The second half, however, belonged to Chiefs who blossomed into an unstoppable unit, building a final score of 34-18.
Round 3 saw Exeter with a narrow escape against a fired up Sale Sharks outfit. On foreign turf, Exeter faced a worrying final ten minutes as Sale crashed over for their third try, bringing them to within two points of their foes. Exeter were, however, able to close out the game still ahead on the board, albeit only just.
Round 4 saw a return clash against Sale at Sandy Park. This time, however, Exeter were ready, scoring five tries and bagging a full-house of points in erratic weather conditions.
In thrilling encounter at Scotstoun Stadium in Glasgow, Chiefs and Warriors played to a 31-all draw in a great advert for the game of rugby. Stuart Hogg had the opportunity to clinch it for Exeter with a 63m penalty kick during injury time which hit the crossbar, thus leaving the scores level.
Round 6 saw a return fixture against La Rochelle as the Frenchmen sought revenge for the Round 1 clash. Exeter, however, were unmerciful in their display, despatching La Rochelle 33-14 at Sandy Park, thus marching into the quarter-finals.
It was an all-English affair in the quarters as Exeter faced Northampton Saints. Saints looked good at the beginning, however, once Exeter kicked into gear shortly after the 15-minute mark, it was clear that they would not be denied.
Most recently, Exeter faced a stout outfit in Toulouse to book their places in the final. Toulouse have proved themselves to be a formidable force in Europe and did not disappoint, making Exeter sweat for their eventual 10-point victory.