Exeter Chiefs started their 2023/24 Investec Champions Cup campaign with a dramatic away win over three-time champions and European giants Toulon. Trailing 18-5 at half time, the Chiefs left it late before mounting an impressive comeback to snatch a one-point victory.
Exeter took a surprising early lead as fly-half Skinner crossed the whitewash having intercepted in his own half. Toulon looked dangerous as French international full-back Jaminet’s back-of-the-hand offload allowed Singleton to break through the Exeter line. But, as he approached the 22, his wayward pass could only find Skinner and the Exeter man ran to the Toulon try line untouched. An early advantage for the Chiefs.
Singleton’s wayward pass could only find Skinner and the Exeter man ran to the Toulon try line untouched.
However, the home side, spurred on by a hostile Stade Mayol crowd, hit back instantly to cross for a try of their own. They made no mistake from a line-out 5 metres out, a powerful driving maul resulted in Gigashvili getting on the scoreboard. Herve’s conversion put Toulon ahead.
Toulon had their second soon after through Scottish scrum-half Ben White. Charles Ollivon broke on the halfway line and galloped into the Exeter 22. Despite a sprawling tackle by Hammersley to bring down Ollivon short of the line, nothing could be done to stop White, his simple pick-and-go try putting daylight between the two sides. Herve, despite missing the conversion from a difficult angle, added two penalties before half time to extend the lead.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Champions Cup debutant Max Norey gave the Chiefs hope. Having been introduced from the bench, the 24-year-old hooker dummied at the back of a ruck before diving over the try line to secure Exeter’s second try of the afternoon.
With the deficit back within a converted try, Rob Baxter’s youthful side went toe to toe with the European powerhouse. But ultimately it was experience that got the Chiefs over the line. Jacques Vermeulen, one of only two players in the matchday squad to have played in Exeter’s Champions Cup final victory in the 2019/20 season, scored in the 79th minute, helped over by captain and University of Exeter student Dafydd Jenkins.
Slade repeated his trick against Gloucester last month, successfully converting with the final kick of the match, his trustworthy left boot giving the Chiefs a thrilling 19-18 victory.
The attention then turned to the second of those players, Henry Slade, whose kick would mean the difference between win and loss. Pressure? What pressure? Slade repeated his trick against Gloucester last month, successfully converting with the final kick of the match, his trustworthy left boot giving the Chiefs a thrilling 19-18 victory. Nerves of steel.
This was a remarkable feat for Baxter’s side against the only team in history to win the Champions Cup three years consecutively (2013-15). Having come out on top against a Toulon side stacked with some of the biggest names in world rugby, Exeter Chiefs return to Sandy Park to face Munster on Sunday the 17th of December, looking to make it two wins from two.