A late try from Sam Simmonds saw Exeter knock out Premiership holders Saracens 18-16 in their semi-final at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Echoing last year’s final the Chiefs appeared subdued in the opening stages, but they proved they’d learned their lesson and dominated a bruising second quarter to level things up 6-6 at the interval.
British and Irish Lion Jack Nowell scrambled over for the first try early in the second half, but defending champions Sarries responded through Chris Wyles and an acrobatic Mike Ellery try which looked to have won the contest.
Exeter, the Premiership team that kick the least, adapted their usual tactics and started the game by box-kicking their early possession through the boot of Stuart Townsend.
Saracens, the team that kick the most, are masters of this strategy though and kept the Chiefs pinned back for most of the early stages, a superb Nowell interception just about keeping Sarries at bay.
Two penalties apiece were exchanged and the Chiefs, buoyed on by a dominant scrum, grew into the game as they started to dominate the immense collisions.
Whisper it quietly but Sarries started to look like a team that had played an intense European final the week before, losing Chris Ashton and Michael Rhodes to injury didn’t help their cause.
The sides went into the break all square and a thunderous Mako Vunipola hit on Dave Dennis raised the curtain to the second half, the Exeter lock having to be substituted as a result.
A scything Phil Dollman break led to the first try, Ollie Devoto found a second gap and New Zealand-bound wing Nowell sniped into the corner from the resultant breakdown.
The Devon side threatened to overrun but Sarries weren’t ready to relent – 16 phases of tight play gave Maro Itoje space to throw a neat delayed pass to Wyles who touched down in the corner.
Fleet-footed substitute Schalk Brits found space to send Ellery over in the corner but the Chiefs were to have the last laugh, a trademark driving maul finished off by Simmonds that sent Sandy Park into raptures.
Tries: Nowell, Simmonds
Pens: Steenson 2
Tries: Wyles, Ellery
Pens: Farrell 2