Saracens stars eagerly anticipating European Champions Cup final

Rosalie Stanley
May 15, 2017

ASM Clermont Auvergne: S Spedding; D Strettle, A Rougerie, R Lamerat, N Abendanon; C Lopez, M Parra; R Chaume, B Kayser, D Zirakashvili; A Iturria, S Vahaamahina; D Chouly (c), P Yato, F Lee.

It was another era-defining triumph for Mark McCall's team, who can take a huge step towards securing a third straight Aviva Premiership title if they beat semi-final opponents Exeter next Saturday.

Last season, George was part of the Saracens side that won the double, a feat they are attempting to achieve again this year after the victory at Murrayfield.

Saracens 28 (Chris Ashton, George Kruis, Alex Goode tries; Owen Farrell 2 conversions, 3 penalties), Clermont Auvergne 17 (Remi Lamerat, Nick Abendanon tries; Morgan Parra 2 conversions, penalty). Those sides were titans of their era, but not for the first time Saracens look outside rugby for their yardsticks.

But the English champions clung on to the continental title they lifted for the first time past year when Alex Goode dived over in the corner seven minutes from time.

It is sometimes said that team spirit is the privilege of the victor but there seems absolutely no question, even though they are serial winners, that Saracens possess that intangible sporting trait in abundance.

Mark McCall's side have not had an ideal build-up to the fixture withsix of their squad called up to the British and Irish Lions' 'messy Monday' just days before the match.

Nigel Owens wouldn't go back to the TMO however and Farrell converted leaving Clermont with just five minutes to make up eight points.

The game needed a Clermont response if a real spectacle was to be had - and to the joy of the Yellow Army it arrived after 27 minutes.

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Omagh's Neil Brown makes his first appearance on the right wing while Grosvenor's influential Allen McCluggage returns to scrum-half.

Ashton, who is joining French club Toulon next season, is now the tournament's all-time leading scorer with 37 tries.

That set up a tense final quarter-hour but it was Saracens who emerged on top as Goode got the decisive score, making the most of Marcelo Bosch's decoy run to speed over in the corner.

The following year we did really well to reach the Champions Cup semi-final, which we lost to Clermont - so that was three big losses in a row and we have done really well to turn that around.

"What you saw today was a Saracens team with all the players on the same hymn sheet, knowing exactly what they need to be doing at the right times - and maybe that is something we lack a little bit", Abendanon said.

"We have been looking at Clermont for quite a while", he said.

"As a winger, I felt a lot of the time that I was under pressure and they are just great at putting you under pressure like that. We went after them in the last 10 to 15 minutes and got our rewards".

Farrell extended it with a penalty but Clermont, with a succession of breakdown turnovers, got back to within a point when Abendanon scored after a great break and offload by Peceli Yato. "It's not a nice feeling, but I'm assured we'll be there or thereabouts next year and we've got to hope next year is going to be our year".

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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