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Sport

Chiefs reach first Champions Cup final with thrilling win over Toulouse

(Reuters) - Exeter Chiefs charged into their maiden Champions Cup final with a thrilling 28-18 victory over Toulouse at Sandy Park on Saturday to ensure there will be a first-time winner in this year’s elite European club rugby competition.

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The English Premiership side, who won promotion to the top-flight 10 years ago, will face twice runners-up Racing 92 in the final on Oct. 17, after the French club beat holders Saracens 19-15 in the first semi-final in Paris.

“It means so much for us -- as it would any team -- getting to a European final,” the Chiefs number eight Sam Simmonds said. “It’s huge. We’ll enjoy it tonight. It’s a massive win for us.”

French champions Toulouse stormed out of the blocks, putting the Chiefs under intense pressure with their free-flowing attacking style and were 6-0 ahead after 13 minutes via a pair of Thomas Ramos penalties.

Exeter hit back in typical fashion on the half-hour mark when Tom O’Flaherty found a gap to get within two metres of the Toulouse line before Harry Williams crossed after a series of bruising phases, with Joe Simmonds making the conversion.

“They really put us under pressure with the offloads,” Simmonds added. “They’ve got so many superstars. When we were under the cosh we had to go back to the basics and what we’ve built ourselves on. We’re built on hard work.

“In previous years we’d come up against teams like Toulouse and they’d blow us away with their class, but we’re just as good now.”

Toulouse, who have won the trophy four times, were only behind for five minutes before another thrilling attack ended in substitute Alban Placines crossing out wide on the right to put the visitors back in front.

But Exeter recovered again, with Sam Simmonds going over from close range before his brother Joe completed the conversion to send the home side into halftime with a 14-11 lead.

Williams scored his second in the 59th minute after more crunching offensive phases from the Chiefs one metre from the Toulouse line, before O’Flaherty broke again in the 70th in a move that ended in Joe Simmonds crossing for Exeter.

Simmonds converted his own try to put Exeter on the brink and they held on for a famous win to reach their first Champions Cup final despite a late consolation for Toulouse after replacement winger Matthis Lebel went over under the posts.

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris and Hugh Lawson

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