Saracens have been crowned European Champions for the 2nd season in a row after they defeated Clermont Auvergne 28-17 in the Final at Murrayfield. Saracens beat Munster 26-10 in the Semi Final in Dublin and Clermont defeated Leinster 27-22 in France.
Heading into this Final, Saracens were favourites going into to this game and if with the power of the Clermont squad Saracens always backed themselves in the tight contests and so it proved this past Saturday with Clermont facing them in their 2nd straight Final. They were crowned Champions after dismantling Racing 92 in the Final. The squad that won that game was kept together with a key addition in the form of Schalk Burger.
All of their heavy hitters have been available for each game in this year’s campaign and they cruised through there Pool and the Quarter Final against Glasgow and although they were level at 6 all at half time in the Semi Final they still managed to find a way to grind out that result to set up the meeting with Clermont.
Mark Mc Call let Paul Gustard join the England coaching ticket alongside Neale Hatley and Steve Borthwick and moved Alex Sanderson onto the Defence coaches’ role. He also added Kevin Sorrell and Adam Powell to his staff and these men have been in and around the squad over the last few years and that made their transition to the coaching team much easier.
This Saracens side has been build up over the last 7 years where Brendan Venter started the turn around and before him current England boss Eddie Jones spent time at the helm of Saracens. This club has worked hard to put the building blocks in place to succeed and since Mark Mc Call took control the rewards have come thick and fast. They won the Premiership crown first and now they have added two European Cup’s to the trophy cabinet. The team is backboned by high quality England talent like Owen Farrell and the Vunipola brothers.
They are only the 2nd team after Leicester Tigers in 2001 and 2002 to win back to back titles and on the evidence of the last two years there is no reason why Saracens can’t win three titles in a row or even go a step better than Toulon and Leinster and win 4 European Cups.
Mark Mc Call has done great work with this team and now has the Premiership title in his sights as he prepares his charges for the Premiership Semi Final this Saturday. Mark Mc Call in my opinion has added to his coaching repertoire and will only enhance that in the coming years if he can keep this group together and add one or two more quality players to an already well stocked squad.
For Clermont , It is yet more Final heartbreak but they can have no complainants on this occasion. They were well beaten by a far hungrier side who could have beaten them several ways had they chosen to do so. Clermont have been here before but they seemed to have learned the lesson of previous campaigns in the Semi Final win over Leinster but they again met a far superior team in terms of how to get over the winning line in a Final… Clermont have only one French Championship win in the last 17 years. They have been second best in numerous Finals at home and in Europe.
For Clermont its back to the drawing board and for Saracens the sky is the limit……
Cian Mc Gibney