‘This is the next best thing. Winning this is unbelievable’: Henry Slade says Exeter’s pulsating Champions Cup triumph has healed agony from losing World Cup final with England
- Exeter Chiefs won the Champions Cup at Ashton Gate after beating Racing 92
- Henry Slade, the England centre, says the triumph will help with past ordeals
- The 27-year-old has been key to the club’s emergence at home and in Europe
Henry Slade savoured Exeter’s Heineken Champions Cup triumph in Bristol on Saturday as a means of moving on from past ordeals in finals with club and country — from Twickenham to Yokohama.
The Chiefs’ 27-year-old England centre scored the second-half try which gave his side enough of an advantage to hang on for victory over Racing 92 in a pulsating encounter at Ashton Gate.
Slade has been a home-grown fixture in the Devon club’s emergence as a force in domestic and European rugby, and he recognised that their continental triumph meant so much more because of the pain from before.
Henry Slade says Exeter’s Champions Cup triumph can help him move on from past ordeals
It is almost exactly 12 months since he and Test team-mates were left shattered by a 32-12 defeat at the hands of South Africa on the grandest stage of all.
‘It’s been an unreal year,’ said Slade. ‘The World Cup final was an unbelievable experience but also a massive disappointment. I was just thinking yesterday that winning this would make me feel way better.
‘This is the next best thing. Winning this is unbelievable. I remember being a teenager watching this competition and wanting to be in it one day. ‘To have the chance to go and win it is such a special feeling.’
Slade (second from left) scored Exeter’s second-half try and reflected back on an ‘unreal’ year
From an Exeter perspective, the last decade of progress has been punctuated by agonising near-misses, notably in the 2016, 2018 and 2019 Premiership Finals – all of which ended in defeat by Saracens.
The fact the Chiefs later discovered that their conquerors had been in breach of the salary cap during that period added to a sense of anguish.
‘This is such a good feeling,’ said Slade. ‘We’ve been through the mill a bit. We’ve had so much disappointment in finals in the last few years, so to do this now is unbelievable.
Slade’s (left) try was enough for the Chiefs to hang on for victory over Racing 92 in a tight clash
‘It’s put us in a really good position. We feel really confident whenever we take the field. Hopefully we can push on from here.’
This was a team who had endured enough agony in finals.
As Slade said, they had learned what was needed and they made it happen.
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