May 09, 2019
Flashback: Champions of Europe 2017
Saracens retained the Heineken Champions Cup with a 28-17 victory over Clermont Auvergne at BT Murrayfield.
Tries from Chris Ashton and George Kruis helped the English champions into a 12-0 lead, but Clermont hit back through Remi Lamerat's converted try.
After Owen Farrell edged Sarries eight points clear, a dazzling Nick Abendanon try saw Clermont edge within a point.
But Alex Goode's try and Farrell's boot ensured Saracens retained their crown.
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.
Kruis then bullied his way over after Goode's slicing break had taken Sarries within a couple of yards.
But missed chances meant they were not out of sight, and from their first attack Clermont cut the gap to five points.
Aurelien Rougerie was cut down just short by Ashton, but Lamerat was on hand for a converted score.
The French side had only won one of the 14 top-tier French and European finals they had been in previously.
Determined not to add to that record they decided to throw bodies into the ruck and they succeeded in halting Saracens' momentum.
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 Clermont right back in it.
Scott Spedding started it from his own line, Fritz Lee and Peceli Yato took it on at pace and Abendanon cruised over for a converted score.
With just a point in it and the momentum apparently in Clermont's favour, lesser sides might have folded, but Saracens pride themselves on their mental strength as much as anything and they took a vice-like grip on the game.
In desperation, Clermont began to concede penalties and Farrell kept the scoreboard ticking over for Saracens.
They needed a try to finish the Frenchmen off and twice came agonisingly close, but Camille Lopez got a hand to one try-scoring pass - not a deliberate knock-on, ruled referee Nigel Owens - and Billy Vunipola was bundled into touch a yard from the line.
But Clermont finally cracked and Goode got the try his performance deserved as he glided through a gap to confirm that Saracens are the best club side in Europe.
TEAMS AND SCORERS:
Saracens (12) 28
Tries: Ashton, Kruis, GoodeCons: Farrell (2)Pens: Farrell (3)
Clermont (7) 17
Tries: Lamerat, AbendanonCons: Parra (2)Pens: Parra
Clermont Auvergne: Spedding; Strettle, Rougerie, Lamerat, Abendanon; Lopez, Parra; Chaume, Kayser, Zirakashvili, Iturria, Vahaamahina, Chouly, Yato, Lee.
Replacements: Fernandez for Spedding (70), Penaud for Rougerie (53), Radosavljevic for Parra (74), Falgoux for Chaume (53), Ulugia for Kayser (66), Jarvis for Zirakashvili (76), Jedrasiak for Vahaamahina (45), Lapandry for Yato (60).
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles; Farrell, Wigglesworth; M.Vunipola, George, Koch, Itoje, Kruis, Rhodes, Wray, B.Vunipola.
Replacements: Spencer for Wigglesworth (78), Lamositele for M Vunipola (76), Brits for George (50), Du Plessis for Koch (78), Hamilton for Itoje (78), S Burger for Wray (60), Taylor for Barritt (54).
Not Used: Lozowski
With just a point between the sides going into the latter stages, a piece of Saracens brilliance eased the pressure on the reigning champions. Marcelo Bosch cut a perfect dummy line to attract the attention of a couple of Clermont players and it allowed Goode to glide through to dive over in the corner.
MAN OF THE MATCH: BILLY VUNIPOLA
Vunipola was monstrous against Clermont. He made 20 carries in total, gaining 72 metres, giving Sarries go-forward at every opportunity. The Number 8 had 12 gainline successes.