Saracens produced a performance that will live long in the memory as they blasted their way to the Heineken Cup final in Cardiff, beating Clermont Auvergne 46-6 at Twickenham Stadium.
Two tries from Chris Ashton, one from Owen Farrell, a penalty try and late scores from replacements Chirs Wyles and Tim Streather inflicted the damage on a shell-shocked Clermont side.
It was a blistering start from Mark McCall’s men at a sun-bathed Twickenham. Much of the talk in the build-up to the match centred around Chris Ashton’s try scoring form in the competition and judging by his effort after twelve minutes, the talk was certainly not wasted as the England flyer raced over to score the game’s first try after collecting Brad Barritt’s inside ball on the left wing to score and equal Sebestien Carrat’s record for tries in one Heineken Cup campaign – the 27-year-old crossing for his tenth of the competition.
With Owen Farrell not being able to kick goals due to lack of time out on the training paddock in the build-up to the game the kicking duties were given to Alex Goode, who must have allayed any of Mark McCall’s fears with a fine touchline conversion.
Sarries were looking good for their seven point lead, and with Schalk Brits and in particular, Jacques Burger a constant menace in defence and in attack the Saracens pack with going toe-to-toe with the Clermont front eight.
After Morgan Parra had reduced Saracens lead on twelve minutes with a well-struck penalty, from the restart Saracens forced their opponents into a chaotic sequence of events that led to Saracens second try of the afternoon. After competing well at a hanging restart from Farrell, Saracens forced Clermont back to their own line. Desperate to clear their lines, the ball was rushed back to Lee Byrne, who looked to use his cultured left boot to march Vern Cotter’s side down the pitch, only for Mako Vunipola to charge down the kick.
With the ball spiralling in the air Marcelo Bosch looked to reclaim it to score the easiest of tries, only for Clermont No.10 Brock James to knock the ball from his grasp. Nigel Owens awarded the penalty try and sent James to the sin-bin for his transgression. Goode converted.
Clermont rallied, and were beginning to look like the side that went all the way to last season’s final, with giant wings Siteveni Sivivatu and Naipolioni Nalaga never too far from the action. Saracens defended stoutly, and although they conceded another penalty that Morgan Parra duly kicked to reduced their lead to eight points, it was the Londoners who would cross the whitewash next.
Great vision from the elusive Alex Goode sent Chris Ashton down the right wing – showing great awareness, Ashton checked his run and fed Owen Farrell, who with the aid of his right knee collected to the ball to score. Goode coverted and added another penalty to give Sarries a 24-6 lead at the break.
If the first half was a treat, then the second forty was something to behold. The Saracens defence squeezed, frustrated and downright suffocated the French side and when Marcelo Bosch booted another long-range penalty to add to the classy Argentine’s collection, the writing was on the wall for Vern Cotter’s side.
Midway into the second half Chris Ashton crossed for his second and eleventh of this seasons Heineken Cup to edge Mark McCall’s men closer to their first ever Heineken Cup final. The winger pouncing on a loose ball to dribble his way over to score.
As Clermont chased the game Saracens struck, as replacements Chris Wyles and Tim Streather sealed a famous win.
Tries – Ashton (8 & 65 mins); pen try (13); Farrell ( 32) Wyles(73); Streather(79).
Cons – Goode x5
Penalties Goode; Bosch.
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch( Streather 73);Brad Barritt, David Strettle( Wyles 70); Owen Farrell, Neil de Kock( rep Wigglesworth 51 min);Mako Vunipola( Barrington 71);Schalk Brits(George 71); James Johnston( Stevens 46);Steve Borthwick (c), Mouritz Botha( Hargreaves); Kelly Brown, Jacques Burger( Wray 70); Billy Vunipola.
Replacements: Jamie George, Richard Barrington, Matt Stevens, Alistair Hargreaves, Jackson Wray, Richard Wigglesworth, Tim Streather, Chris Wyles
Referee Nigel Owens