History in the making

An all-time baseball great once said “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime”. Saracens certainly epitomised what Babe Ruth was saying as they belligerently made history joining Leicester Tigers, Leinster and Toulon as back to back winners of the European title.
Saracens took the field in a slow march but once referee Nigel Owen making history himself- officiating in his 100th European game blew the whistle, the champions roared out of the blocks and almost scored through Chris Ashton in the first sixty seconds. It needed great cover by Nick Abendanon, one of Clermont’s two English exiles with his fellow wing and ex Saracen’s Dave Strettle, to cut Ashton down.He would not be denied in a short while, as he raced onto Andy Goode’s grubber kick through the Clermont back line and celebrated his record score, moving one ahead of Vincent Clerc of Toulouse with his trademark swan dive.
It would be pertinent to point out that Owen Farrell had been the only Saracen to score in a European Cup final, as he slotted seven penalties to beat Racing 92 in Lyon last year, and two penalties in the loss to Toulon in Cardiff in 2014.The windy conditions were definitely putting the England flyhalf to task as he missed the conversion and audacious 49m penalty attempt.
Sarries had their second try on 21 minutes when England lock George Kruis crashed over at the posts, following a punishing series of pick-and-go drives from the Saracens highly pack. Farrell converted for 12-0 and one could help thinking that Clermont’s stigma of perennially failing in finals had returned to dog the French club and the thousands of their ‘yellow army’ inside a colourful Murrayfield. It seemed to spur the men from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes as they did not fold and in a dominant last 15 minutes before the interval they nabbed the only try conceded by Saracens in first-half European rugby this season. Aurelien Rougerie gained a half-metre of space on the end of a lovely flat pass by Morgan Parra, and his midfield mate Remi Lamerat finished it off, with scrum-half Parra adding the conversion.
Saracens were uncharacteristically undisciplined as they conceded three penalties and one knock-on turnover in their opponents’ 22 in the first half, frittering away excellent positions. The breakdown punishment continued after half-time – which Exeter will surely take note of – Clermont closed the gap to 15-14 with a spectacular touchline run and offload by flanker Peceli Yato finished by Abendanon and converted by Parra. Saracens needed all their big-match reliability experience and with the introduction of the ‘’Schalks “ Britts and Burger was telling influence as a great chance for Saracens was missed when they Lopez managed to spoil an overlap, then Abendanon bravely halted a clattering blindside charge for the line by Billy Vunipola off a scrum with the match finely poised at 18-17.The next team to score would be in the driving seat and Goode got it for Saracens, as a scrum wide on the left gave them an open field to attack, Lions duo Maro Itoje and Vunipola drove hard into Clermont’s forwards, and the gap opened for Sarries’ mercurial full-back to glide in capping an outstanding performance and surely making Lions Head Coach think about including him on the standby list .Farrell converted for 25-17. “Cometh the hour cometh the man” however this would not be the case as Camille Lopez cracked and missed a drop goal attempt and penalty. Brave and valiant just not enough and Clermont’s bridesmaid tag would continue as Farrell’s penalty goal in the 78th minute ensured this, Onwards with Saracens celebrations and the quest for global domination.


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