Saracens, European Kings
So Saracens have been crown European Champions for 2016 after a tough final where the weather was a key factor for both teams, Saracens looked armed for a major fight and with the help of a massive scrum and also a resolute defence along with the ice cool kicking of Owen Farrell all of these factors were key to Sarries success. Racing for their part had World Cup winner Dan Carter in their ranks along with three time winner Chris Masoe so they seemed well equipped to challenge Saracens for Europe’s biggest prize but that challenge seemed destined to fail when Maxime Macheaud and Dan Carter, the driver of the bus and his conductor were struck down with injuries in the first and second half.
Mike Phillips and Remi Tales both came on but they failed to get Racing going and that stubborn Saracens defence coupled with a poor, tiring Racing 92 attack paved the way for Saracens to win a first European crown.
Looking at the Saracens team, you had a smattering of Grand Slam winners from earlier this year with England, Maro Itoje and George Kruis led the way in defence and Owen Farrell punished any Racing 92 indiscipline. Racing 92 can have no complaints about the result as they failed to trouble a Saracens defence who seemed to know every move they were going to make.
Mark Mc Call has to take huge credit for yesterday’s win as he had his team in peak mental and physical condition. They played the normal Saracens game where tight defence and a solid set piece usually leads them to victory. Maro Itoje for his part has pulled on a Saracens shirt 20 times this season and has won 20 times, not a bad strike rate…
Racing 92 will know they were in a battle and will also know that they could not have done much more to stop the Saracens juggernaut from taking a 1st European crown. Guys like Ben Tameifuna , Joe Rokocoko and the departing Luke Charteris did as much as they could but as all 9 teams that faced this Saracens team in Europe this year they came up well short when it came to beating them.
What team will stop Saracens this year one wonders as Wasps won 64-14 and at that moment you thought maybe things were derailed but as yesterday proved it takes more than one heavy defeat to knock this side of it perch.
Nigel Wray will have been extremely proud of the team he has owned for the last 20 or so years. He tried at the turn of the century to build a team capable of winning all before it with guys like Michael Lynagh , Francois Pienaar , Paul Wallace and French man Thierry Lacroix to guide them round the field. They didn’t do anything as good as the current group. Of course this adventure started with Brendan Venter who was Director of Rugby before Mark Mc Call took over. This is the guy who famously did an interview where he spent two full minutes refusing to answer questions.
They were backboned by tough guys at that time namely Ernst Joubert and the soon to depart human version of the game “Operation” Jacques Burger , this man has the pins and bolts that held his body together after different procedures he had during his career.
The new breed of Itoje , Farrell and the Vunipola brothers led Sarcens to the promise land yesterday winning 21-9. Huge congratulations to all at Saracens, they proved yesterday that hard work and persistence pays off….
For Racing 92, its back to the drawing board and trying to uncover that coveting secret, on how you win The Champions Cup. They will be back I have no doubt, not if Ronan O Gara and Labit and Travers have anything to do with it….
Cian Mc Gibney