Belfast Telegraph

Chiefs help English sides make history

By Andrew Baldock

England will have a record five representatives in this season's European Champions Cup quarter-finals. A pulsating final weekend of pool stage action saw Exeter qualify for the last-eight in dramatic fashion by beating Ospreys 33-17 and winning Pool Two on points difference.

Exeter boss Rob Baxter was left to reflect on "an incredible finale".

Baxter said: "I am obviously delighted, but delighted more for the players than anything else.

"Qualifying out of this pool today was very unlikely. Anyone who laid a bet on it has probably made a fortune! We talked about the character we wanted to show and what we wanted to take out of the game.

"We didn't expect to be winning the pool, but the players put in a fantastic shift and got a real tangible reward for it.

"We knew the score was staying pretty close between Clermont and Bordeaux, and it all started getting really confusing. We didn't know if we needed to kick the ball off the pitch at the end or score another try.

"It has been an incredible finale to the weekend. It is always nice when hard work gets rewarded."

And the Chiefs' achievement broke the previous English record of four clubs that made the European Cup quarter-finals in 1998.

Two of the last-eight clashes in early April will be all-Aviva Premiership encounters.

Top European seeds Saracens will host Northampton after Saints qualified as one of three best runners-up, while Exeter can look forward to tackling Wasps at the Ricoh Arena, a ground where they have already won this season.

Elsewhere, Leicester will have home advantage against Stade Francais, while Racing 92 host Champions Cup holders Toulon.

Leicester won Pool Four, with Stade finishing second, but Stade's bonus point victory over the Tigers in Paris on Sunday ensured a best runners-up spot.

And with the winners of quarter-final one - Saracens against Northampton - meeting quarter-final two victors of Wasps and Exeter in the semi-finals, it means an English Champions Cup final representative is guaranteed.

The quarter-finals take place on April 8-10.

Belfast Telegraph


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