Exeter Road To The Final
It would be hard to imagine at the start of the season Exeter into the final of their first ever European Champions Cup final, and with that, being favourites to lift it.
They may have been helped by the fact that Saracens were finally penalised for their financial wrongdoings, but credit has to go to Rob Baxter for growing this team into the current powerhouse it is.
The director of rugby took over back in 2009 and has led the team from the English Championship to the top of European rugby, and although they’re also into the final of the English Premiership, this will without a doubt be their main target.
The Chiefs secured top spot in their domestic league nearly a month before the play-offs, as they succumbed to a couple of defeats during that period when putting out weaker second-string side.
However, 23 and 10 point wins in the last two rounds of this competition against Northampton and Toulouse respectively, as well as a 35-6 thrashing of Bath in the Premiership semis, they look in good stead heading into this one.
Racing Road To The Final
Racing 92 won their gruelling tussle with Saracens 19-15 in the last round of this tournament, as Juan Imhoff’s try in the 75th minute proved the difference for the hosts that day.
This will be the third time the French side have reached the final and having lost to Sarries and Leinster in 2016 and 2018 respectively, they’ll be eager to lift the title this time around.
Unfortunately, Laurent Travers’ men have had their preparations ruined by a Covid-19 outbreak, although it hasn’t been disclosed which of their squad or coaching staff had tested positive for the virus, it will no doubt hamper their chances.
They put out a second-string side in their defeat at home to Toulouse at the weekend, with only Teddy Thomas and Donnacha Ryan starting in both their Champions Cup semi-final and that Ligue 1 encounter, though it’s yet to be seen who has been affected by the virus.
Exeter 1-12 Point Winning Margin
With this fixture taking place at Ashton Gate, just up the road from Exeter you certainly have to give the English side a slight home advantage. In fact, when considering Racing 92 have won just six of their last 10 outside the Paris La Defense Arena, it begins to become clearer why the Chiefs are favourites.
Dating back to the 2007/08, 10 of the 12 European Cup finals have seen fewer than 12 points separate the sides, and with one of the anomalies coming when Leinster thrashed fellow Irish side Ulster in a fairly one sided affair, we’d be surprised if these two evenly matched outfits saw a big disparity between them come the final whistle.
Moreover, the ascendency in European rugby seems to be with the nations north of the English Channel at the minute, with the last time a French side won coming back in 2014/15, and Exeter look worthy winners for us.