Heineken Champions Cup: Exeter Chiefs knocked out by Leinster

By Tim OscroftBBC Sport
Jordan Larmour of Leinster scores their second try under pressure from Stuart Hogg of Exeter Chiefs
Jordan Larmour's second try was confirmed after replays showed he had not touched the line or post while getting the ball down
Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final
Exeter (14) 22
Tries: O Flaherty (2), Ewers Con: J Simmonds (2), Pen: J Simmonds
Leinster (20) 34
Tries: Lowe, Larmour (2) Cons: Sexton, Byrne Pens: Byrne (5)

Defending champions Exeter Chiefs were knocked out of the Champions Cup by Leinster in a gripping quarter-final.

Two Tom O'Flaherty tries saw Exeter take an early 14-0 lead, but Leinster hit back despite the loss of Ireland's Johnny Sexton to a head injury.

His replacement Ross Byrne made a crucial contribution by kicking 17 points including five penalties.

One try from James Lowe and two from Jordan Larmour saw the Irish side battle back to move into the last four.

Exeter's defeat and Sale's loss to La Rochelle means there will be no English sides in this year's semi-finals, which will feature three French sides following the two all-French quarter-finals on Sunday between Bordeaux Begles v Racing 92 and Clermont Auvergne v Toulouse.

The Chiefs made an outstanding start to go 14-0 ahead after only seven minutes, with O'Flaherty slicing through Leinster's defence twice to score tries converted by fly-half Joe Simmonds.

But Leinster gathered themselves and began their fightback soon after, when a brilliant offload by Hugo Keenan gave Lowe the chance to dive over in the corner for a try that Sexton converted impressively.

Sexton was replaced by Byrne after failing a head injury assessment, but Leinster shook off the loss of their captain when Larmour touched down in the corner.

Byrne converted and then soon afterwards kicked the first of his five penalties, with Exeter going into half-time with a 20-14 lead.

Exeter were back within a point just two minutes into the second half when flanker Dave Ewers was driven over from a lineout for his fourth try in four consecutive games.

But Larmour extended Leinster's lead with a brilliant effort, managing to wrest himself over the line by the corner flag despite being under immense pressure in a tackle by Simmonds.

More penalties from the accurate Byrne saw Leinster stretch their lead in the closing stages, with Exeter unable to consistently threaten the Irish side's line.

Leinster were denied the chance to make the result even more emphatic when Rory O'Loughlin's late try was disallowed.

'The momentum shifted away from us' - what they said

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter: "We had a great first 10 minutes, then the momentum shifted away for a fair chunk of time. Half-time let us just settle down, and we started the second half really well and got ourselves right back into contention.

"You could probably see the times when we just went off-script, and we started going from side to side and got turned over. Three or four times we got in really good shape, we scored tries.

"And I think that is the thing that will frustrate us the most when we review the game. When we actually played, we created quite a lot of pressure on Leinster.

"Normally, we would like to say we are the team that creates that pressure in most areas and it adds up for us, but today it added up for Leinster. I have got a very disappointed changing room in there."

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen: "We had a shaky start, which we did in our last European quarter-final (against Saracens).

"But the players showed enormous composure, and it was a great squad effort to get there today.

"Ross Byrne was so composed all the way through - he steered us around the field - and was excellent after he went on."

Line-ups

Exeter: Hogg; Woodburn, Slade, Devoto, O'Flaherty, J Simmonds, Maunder; Moon, Cowan-Dickie, Francis, Gray, Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen, S Simmonds.

Replacements: Yeandle (Cowan-Dickie 63), Hepburn (Moon 50), Williams (Francis 50), S Skinner (Gray 57), Kirsten (Vermeulen 51), Townsend (Maunder 57), H Skinner, Whitten (Woodburn 60).

Leinster: Keenan; Larmour, O'Loughlin, Henshaw, Lowe; Sexton, McGrath; Healy, Kelleher, Furlong, Fardy, Toner, Ruddock, Van der Flier, Conan.

Replacements: Tracy (Kelleher 70), E Byrne (Healy 50), Porter (Furlong 55), Molony (Toner 70), Baird (Fardy 50), O'Sullivan, R Byrne (Sexton 27), Kearney (Lowe 79)

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