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    Henry Slade underlined his big game mentality with his winning strike against Toulon

    Henry Slade saves a late conversion to stun the French giants. Photo: Getty Images/Anthony Dibon Toulon 18 Exeter Chiefs 19

    How proud Exeter's champion team, which triumphed in this competition three years ago, will be made up of these young Chiefs, who staged a wonderful second-half comeback, snatched victory over Toulon and started their European campaign with a bang.

    When the clock ran red, the hero was Henry Slade – one of the few remaining players from the team that won the European and domestic double in 2020. He was the picture of calm as he split the posts with a last-gasp conversion from Jacques Vermeulen's late goal to seal an unlikely win for Chiefs – only Exeter's second away win in 13 months. This could be a defining moment in the evolution of a growing Chiefs team.

    Henry Slade wins at the death @ExeterChiefs 🤯 pic.twitter.com/NgjMaXTYhX

    — Rugby on TNT Sports (@rugbyontnt) December 9, 2023

    “It was almost a fairytale ending,” said Rob Baxter, Exeter’s director of rugby. “In the last 20 minutes you could feel something was happening. It was incredible for us to realize the conversion in the last seconds.

    “It probably shows you the whole cycle that this group has been in. Start a European adventure 10, 12, 13 years ago and start a new European adventure now. It looks like another amazing new story.”

    The latest drama had echoes of Slade's match-winning strike that helped Chiefs edge past Gloucester last month. On that occasion, Slade scored a long-range penalty. This time he had to fight in front of a hostile French crowd, but it felt like it was meant to be.

    Ten years ago, Slade made his European debut in this match. Ten years later, he continues to distinguish himself as a major player in a team that has recently lost leadership.

    Baxter made it clear that this would be a character-building exercise for his team. squad of young players after their heavy 41-24 defeat in Bath last week. But against three-time European champion Toulon, who are second in the top 14, his young players largely matched Toulon's power play.

    Exeter's scrum-half Tom Cairns was truly intense in both attack and defense, with Ben Hammersley and Harvey Skinner neutralizing the kicking threat posed by Melvin Jaminet.

    Harvey Skinner…wow 😳@ExeterChiefs decisively in the lead!#InvestecChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/2C15dwwF4j

    — Rugby on TNT Sports (@rugbyontnt) December 9, 2023

    Skinner underlined Chiefs' statement of intent when he intercepted Jack Singleton's loose pass and ran from his own half to score quickly, but Chiefs, who had spent much of the first half absorbing waves of pressure, eventually broke down when Toulon's engine room turned on transfer.

    Beka Gigashvili blasted his way over the barrier before the hosts extended their lead through Ben White, who produced a fine attacking move through the outside channel and then finished the game with a simple interception.

    The day looked ominous , as Exeter scored another two six points thanks to Enzo Hervé's boot while Brian Alainu'Wese was in the bin for a high-shouldered barge at Hammersley.

    But for Toulon it couldn’t have been better. , which were interrupted by the loss of Baptiste Serin, which forced them to operate without a back nine for much of a meaningless second half.

    Exeter took advantage of Max Norie's chance to stride his way across the pitch. contact to return Chiefs score on the hour mark.

    Champions Cup debut try from Max Norey 👏@ExeterChiefs gets the all-important first try of the second half!#InvestecChampionsCup pic.twitter.com/k6h8JX3mvf

    — Rugby on TNT Sports (@rugbyontnt) December 9, 2023

    Nori would later have just as much of an impact on Vermeulen's late score. After a series of hesitant corridors, he deliberately threw his last remaining arrow over the top and into the waiting hands of Joe Hawkins. The move saw Vermeulen crash at the death before Slade showed nerves of steel to seal an impressive win ahead of next week's meeting with Munster.

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