Premiership Rugby: An ode to the Exeter Chiefs…

When you come at the king, you best not miss.

In this instance, the king or rather kings are the Exeter Chiefs, the now champions of both English and European Rugby.

Cast your minds back to just over a week ago, to the final of the European Champions Cup.

It is the dying embers of an impressive final. Had there been fans in the stands, you can almost bet that people would be on the edge of the Ashton Gate seats.

With minutes left on the clock, Racing 92 are building. Racing 92 are up over the 22. Racing 92 are metres away from European Cup glory.

And then, just like that they weren’t. They were halted by the dogged efforts of Exeter scrum-half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, who held up Antoine Claassen from dotting down.

The result? An Exeter win.

Now cast your mind back to just this weekend. It’s the Premiership Final.

And it the swirling winds and downpour surrounding Twickenham, Wasps and Exeter are going blow for blow in the torrid conditions of the English autumn.

It’s the dying embers of an impressive final. Wasps have shut Exeter out time after time during the second half.

With minutes left on the clock, Wasps are building. Wasps have a penalty. Wasps kick to touch for a line-out that would give their forwards a chance to seal an improbable Premiership title win.

And then, just like that, just like Racing, Wasps were halted. This time by Scottish lock Jonny Gray, who stole away both the line-out and their last glimmer of hope.

Both Racing and Wasps missed their chances.

And like I said in the introduction – when you come at the king, you best not miss.

For the first time in their history, the Exeter Chiefs are champions both England and Europe.

They are now part of an exclusive club. Only four English teams can boast the same achievement.

And if Rob Baxter’s men have anything to say about, it won’t be the last time either.

The Chiefs win on Saturday was their second Premiership title win. Their last one came, coincidently, against Wasps too back in 2017.

In the last five years, they have reached all five Premiership finals, with only Saracens standing in their way of domestic dominance.

But Saturday’s win over Wasps felt like it was the beginning of something new. The dawn of a new era.

Exeter are a model of excellence and efficiency in almost everything they do.

You need only look at their two most recent wins to see how their strong ability to develop their own and recruit well has paid dividends.

During Baxter’s 11 year tenure, they have produced an array of homegrown talent, headlined by Internationals Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, and Sam Simmonds.

They have of course, bolstered their ranks with the addition of the supremely talented Stuart Hogg too.

But scratch beyond the surface and you’ll begin to see that the roots go far deeper than that.

Players like Jonny Hill, Tom O’Flaherty and Harry Williams have all contributed massively towards Exeter’s recent success.

All three were smart additions who have now grown into excellent starters, who would find their way into most teams in the entire northern hemisphere.

And what happens when all of this comes together? What happens when you develop your own, recruit well and improve year on year?

You get a team that look set to dominate club rugby for years to come.

Of course, this could all be a moot point in a year’s time when Saracens come roaring back from their salary-cap scandal relegation to topple Exeter’s domestic and European hegemony.

But the Chiefs do not exactly look like a side that will be resting on their laurels.

After all, they start their title defence in just three weeks’ time!

When you look at Exeter’s squad of international talent, it can be easy to forget where the club was just over 10 years ago.

Just over a decade ago, the Chiefs were sat in the Championship, the second tier of English rugby.

But it just goes to show how incredible a journey it has been so far.

It’s been a long road to this point and there will surely be talk when Eddie Jones does move on from the England job that Baxter should take up the reigns.

But for now those conversations will have to wait.

Exeter are the champions of England.

Exeter are the champions of Europe.

Exeter are the best rugby team this side of the equator.

And Exeter are not going away any time soon.

Related Articles