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Exeter Chiefs will be leaning on their strong home record when they play Munster Rugby in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 first leg on Saturday – though their opponents have proved capable visitors.
2020 winners Exeter have won 10 of their last 11 Heineken Champions Cup games at Sandy Park, while two-time champions Munster are on a three-game winning streak away from home and battled back from a half-time deficit on two of those occasions.
Exeter and Munster, who finished sixth in Pool A and third in Pool B respectively, have met twice in Europe previously, with the Irish province winning on one occasion and the other clash ending in a draw.
Kick-off is at 17:30 UK and Irish time and there will be live coverage provided by BT Sport and beIN SPORTS.
The 2020 winners @ExeterChiefs 👊
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 4, 2022
Other key stats:
- Exeter have won three of their previous four home games in the Heineken Champions Cup knockout stage (L1), with their only defeat coming against Irish opposition in last season’s quarter-finals (22-34 v Leinster Rugby).
- Munster have won five of their previous eight knockout stage games away from home in the Heineken Champions Cup, including all three times they have been up against English opposition.
- Exeter have conceded the most turnovers of any side in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (52), while no team have forced more turnovers than Munster (29).
- Exeter have scored more tries originating from scrums than any other side in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (6). However, Munster are one of six sides left in the competition to have not conceded a single try following a scrum.
- Exeter’s Sam Simmonds is the Heineken Champions Cup’s top try-scorer this season, having crossed on seven occasions so far, over triple the amount Munster’s top try-scorers have managed (Jack O’Donoghue and Simon Zebo, two each).
- Exeter lock Sam Skinner has hit more attacking rucks than any other player in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup (118), while teammate Luke Cowan-Dickie has hit the most defensive rucks of any player (48).
- No player has claimed more steals at the breakdown in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup than Munster’s Tadgh Beirne (6). In comparison, the Exeter player with the most breakdown steals is Cowan-Dickie (3).
- Munster fly-half Ben Healy has the best goal-kicking success rate of anybody to have attempted at least 10 kicks (10/11, 91%). By contrast, Exeter’s most frequent goal-kicker, Joe Simmonds, has landed 14 of his 17 attempts at goal (82%).
Exeter full-back Stuart Hogg: “They (Munster) live for Europe and their record speaks for itself. They are an outstanding side, full of quality players, so we’ll need to be at our best these next two weeks.”
Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony: “They (Exeter) have threats all over the place, their back three, [Henry] Slade in the centre with whoever plays with him. Their halfbacks are incredibly dynamic.”
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Exeter Chiefs battled to a 13-8 victory over Munster Rugby in the Heineken Champions Cup Round of 16 first leg at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The 2020 champions were in control at half-time through tries from Stuart Hogg and Jacques Vermeulen, but two yellow cards in two minutes in the second half proved costly as Shane Daly crossed for Munster.
Exeter took the lead early on through Hogg’s try, the full-back being set up by wing Tom O’Flaherty who had slipped through the Munster defence with a superb running line.
Captain Jack Yeandle almost got over for a second Exeter try midway through the first half, but Munster were able to dislodge the ball before grounding.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) April 9, 2022
The hosts would eventually grab their second score shortly before the break, flanker Vermeulen forcing his way over from close range to punish Munster for conceding a string of penalties – one of which saw replacement forward Jack O’Sullivan sent to the sin bin.
Munster survived a seven-minute period with 14 men at the start of the second half, and got themselves on the score board with just less than an hour played as fly-half Ben Healy slotted a penalty from in front of the posts.
The visitors would then be handed a golden opportunity to get back into the game as Exeter received two yellow cards in two minutes – first wing Olly Woodburn and then replacement prop Patrick Schickerling.
Incredible defending from Keith Earls and Chris Farrell!! 💪
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) April 9, 2022
Against the odds, Exeter managed to extend their lead as Hogg kicked a drop-goal from range, but Munster eventually capatalised on their two-man advantage on 66 minutes as Daly stepped inside to finish superbly.
Both sides were denied tries during closing stages – the TMO was called in to check an effort from Munster replacement scrum-half Craig Casey before Woodburn was halted by a super covering tackle as he looked destined to go over in the corner for Chiefs.
Exeter ended the game in ascendency but were held up over the line in the final play of the game, leaving them with a five-point lead heading into next week’s second leg at Thomond Park.