May 11, 2017
Saracens vs Clermont: An Alternative Match Preview
After 8 games played, 25 tries scored and a grand total of 245 points scored by Saracens, the Champions Cup Final is upon us. With European rugby fans set to line the streets of Edinburgh for finals weekend it’s set to be a bumper weekend of rugby. With that in mind, we take an alternative look at the Champions Cup Final here.
An Anglo-French Affair:
This year’s final between Clermont and the Men in Black is the seventh Anglo-French final since the Champions Cup began under its previous guise of the Heineken Cup in the 1995-96 season. The first cross-channel clash took place the following season as Brive defeated Leicester Tigers 28-9 at Cardiff Arms Park. Since then, the following five encounters have yielded five English victories as opposed to a singular victory for French clubs. Sarries have been involved in the last two Anglo-French encounters, losing the first against the imperious Toulon before defeating Racing in Lyon last season.
Centenaries will be cropping up left, right and centre at Murrayfield on Saturday. Should Sarries win, as well as being their record 18th match unbeaten, it’ll be their 100th European win (46 in the Challenge Cup, 53 in Champions Cup If selected, Ben Spencer will also make his 100th Saracens appearance). Not just this but the Men in Black’s opponents Clermont will be contesting their 100th tournament match, this is also the case for referee for the day, Nigel Owens.
Father and Son:
Damien Penaud will take part in the final for Clermont after a breakthrough season at centre for Clermont in which he has scored seven tries. One of those was against Toulon in the quarter final last month and he has played a vital role in the French side’s journey to the Quarter-Final. However, that is not the most interesting aspect of Penaud’s participation in the Final as his father former Saracens player, Alain Penaud, captained Brive to the Heineken Cup title in 1997. Were his son to win the Cup on Saturday then they would become the first father and son duo to achieve Champions Cup glory.
Should Sarries be able to deny the Penaud family a double then they would be the fourth team to win back-to-back Champions Cup titles. They would be the second English team to do so after Leicester Tigers completed the feat in 2001 and 2002. Leinster repeated the feat in 2011 and 2012 and on the way completed 17 unbeaten matches; this was a feat Saracens matched on their way to the final and could be bettered with a win on Saturday. The third team to win back to back finals, Toulon, are the only one to do it three times. Between 2013 and 2015 they beat Clermont twice and Sarries once before relinquishing the title they held for so long after Sarries beat Racing 92 in 2016.