Thursday, 14 December, 2017

Saracens claim back-to-back European Champions Cup titles

Warren Gatland defended the timing of the first Lions meeting in London REUTERS Warren Gatland defended the timing of the first Lions meeting in London
Hilda Schwartz | 14 May, 2017, 04:21

The three other Premiership semi-finalists all get to rest their players next weekend, as they did when we played against Munster in the European semi-finals.

But while the final celebrations sparked wild celebrations among his team-mates, the 30-year-old was left in a reflective mood.

Saracens, who powered past Munster at the Aviva in their last-four collision, also lost to Toulon in the final, in 2014, but won the trophy previous year by beating Racing.

Victory left Londoners Saracens, also the reigning English champions, just two matches away from completing the "double Double" as they became the fourth team to win back-to-back European Cup titles, after Leicester, Leinster and Toulon.

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

"It was an incredible performance and it needed to be." said Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall.

Strettle is equally well versed in knowing the Saracens players Clermont must keep quiet, having watched many come through the ranks during his time at Allianz Park. Saracens coach Mark McCall: "It is great to win back-to-back (finals) but the manner in which we did it was the hugely encouraging thing. We're going to have a good party tonight".

Clermont, however, gathered themselves and, working tirelessly through their forwards, sent Remi Lamerat over for what was the first first-half try Saracens had conceded in the competition all season.

"Since then we have not lost a play-off game - that is nine in a row - which is a record we should be really proud of".

One man who knows all about both teams is the Clermont wing Dave Strettle. That has never happened to me before.

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Billy Vunipola has taken his ball-carrying game to a new level, although his desire to bring more "edge" to his play has seen him screaming in the faces of opponents and being told to calm down by referees.

It was the third final loss in five years for Clermont. Obviously a European Cup final is motivation in itself.

The two sides have clashed seven times in the tournament before and he has figured in all of them.

For a long time it just offered the chance for the champions to show their defensive class but a try of the season contender saw them right back in it.

Saracens are unbeaten in their last 17 games in the Champions Cup (W16, D1), equalling Leinster's record which was set between 2010 and 2012 (also W16, D1).

They have a beast of a pack that will attempt to pressure Sarries at the scrum and mess up the most consistent line-out in European rugby. To date, they have won 56 games in the Champions Cup and 43 in the Challenge Cup.

When George Kruis battered his way over nine minutes later for Saracens' second try Clermont looked in danger of being swamped.

His touchdown was his 37 Champions Cup score and set a new record try tally for Europe's premier club competition. The Saracens wing is now level with Vincent Clerc on 36 tries. No other player has made as many tackles as Sebastien Vahaamahina (90), Michael Rhodes (82) or Benjamin Kayser (80).

We'll be making highlights of the game available for FREE shortly after the final whistle on BTSport.com and on the BT Sport app.

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