Saracens retain European title with victory over Clermont

Posted May 14, 2017

It was a one-point game and then it felt as if the Gods were going to go for Clermont. Get a full report and reaction.

The French side lost to Toulon in both the 2013 and 2015 finals and hope to go one better against holders Saracens at BT Murrayfield on Saturday evening (5pm) to win Europe's top trophy for the first time.

Fly-half Farrell was named European Player of the Year after the final whistle, following in the footsteps of teammate Maro Itoje who won in 2016, and admits the closeness of the squad played its part once again.

This victory made Saracens the fourth club to win consecutive titles after Leicester, Leinster and Toulon, but they can now boast the longest unbeaten run in the competition, with 17 wins and a draw from the last two campaigns.

Four of the last six European Cup finals have been decided by margins of more than seven points, just three of the 15 finals before that had been decided by such a margin. After Brad Barritt's able tap on Scott Spedding sabotaged a Clermont breakout, Saracens used another lineout on halfway to puncture the defensive line.

The only surprise was it took the Londoners 13 minutes to make their breakthrough.

But for the first time the England wing will be in Clermont colours.

Farrell's kick came back off the upright while his next attempt from nearly half-way fell a yard short.

"They are a steamroller, from the first to the last minute", he said.

Ashton's opener was sublime - the winger racing on to fellow England discard Goode's precise grubber kick to become the leading all-time try scorer in the Champions Cup with 37. With Clermont still scrambling back into covering positions, Kruis arrived at the ideal moment to crash over.

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In desperation Clermont began to concede penalties and Farrell kept the scoreboard ticking over for Saracens.

Fritz Lee will be crucial for Clermont to get them on the front foot and they will look to attack from there.

After Owen Farrell edged Sarries eight points clear, a dazzling Nick Abendanon try saw Clermont edge within a point.

Aurelien Rougerie - the 36-year-old centre who joined the side from the Massif Central as a boy - was cut down just short by Ashton but Lamerat was on hand for a converted score.

Clermont, who beat Saracens in the 2015 semi-finals, come into the game buoyed by a 30-26 home win over Top 14 leaders La Rochelle to secure second place in the regular season.

"I just feel sorry for Sean as he's had a great season and been a first-choice pick for us".

England global Billy Vunipola added: "It's such an wonderful group of guys. For my try I was just lucky to get the final pass".

"After they scored that unbelievable 100-metre try we had to show our experience and resilience and I'm really pleased with the way we attacked and went after them in that last 20 minutes".

Abendanon said he would have put his mortgage on Clermont victory, such was the belief in the camp this week.

And if they can extend that awesome run through next Saturday's Premiership play-off semi-final away to Exeter Chiefs, and the final at Twickenham on 27 May, the London club will emulate Leicester Tigers in 2001 and 2002 by completing the "double double" of English league and European Cup.