Apr 19, 2015
Saracens vs Clermont - Match Review
Saracens bravely bowed out of Europe on Saturday, with familiar foes ASM Clermont Auvergne edging a tight contest 13-9 at a rocking Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in the French city of St-Etienne.
Sarries performance against the French giants was inspirational. A side who have simply brushed aside any opponents put before them this season were made to scrap, and fight for every inch in an absorbing contest.
Here we look at some key performers in what was a fine team effort.
The famous five
“Of the starting pack today, five were 25 or under. They are going to be pretty good when they hit 28 and 29 – they were magnificent today.” In defeat, Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall highlight a definitive silver-lining for Saracens and England rugby fans.
The performances of Mako and Billy Vunipola, Jamie George, George Kruis and in particular, Maro Itoje (plus Jackson Wray from the bench) in the face of an experienced pack that included some of the continents most battled hardened and snarly forwards in the shape of Canadian Jamie Cudmore, the evergreen Julien Bonairre and skipper Damien Chouly, was simply outstanding.
These young Saracens forwards have come of age, and are now mixing it, and excelling on the coalface of the pinnacle of European rugby. Who is to say that the likes of Jamie George, Jackson Wray and Maro Itoje will not be joining teammates Billy, George and Mako in the white of England in the not too distant future?
Can Alex the great continue to conquer?
Alex Goode produced a performance that oozed grace, guile and superiority on Saturday within the yellow and blue cauldron that was the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. Some of the match build-up was dominated by a head-to-head comparison between two England full-backs of past and present, with Goode lining up against former Bath flyer.
Nick Abendanon. The Clermont No15 has been in sparkling form for Les Vulcans, but Sarries 26-year old academy product won the hearts and minds of any observer in a composed performance in the blank and red No15 jersey.
Alex carried on 13 occasions and made a breath-taking 113 metres in the game, with Abendanon making 35. Goode is in fine fettle heading into a big year for the England man.
Bardy vs Burger – An eye watering match-up
In Julien Bardy and Jacques Burger, Saturday’s European Champions Cup semi-final had placed two of Europe’s most abrasive openside flanker’s together on one pitch.
Bardy is a rasping No7, plays on the edge and is an industrious flank forward. Saracens Namibian, Burger is an inspirational figure within the ‘WolfPack’ mentality that has been cultivated within the Allianz Park club.
Both JB’s had fine games. Both completed 12 tackles (the most for their respective teams) in a bruising encounter in St-Etienne. The ferocity in which Jacques Burger played the semi-final was another example of his will to win, and the fight exhibited by the Saracens players in defeat.
Wiggy's words of wisdom
"This won't deter us going forward. Win or lose we will front up for big final push. We're unbelievably proud of the effort." In the despair of losing a crunch semi-final, experienced halfback Richard Wigglesworth provided some much needed context to a disappointing result in France for the north Londoners.
Saracens have one piece of silverware in the Allianz Park trophy cabinet already this season (well five if you add the A-League, Premiership U18s title and Women’s Premiership and Cup to the LV=Cup triumph) and are well placed in the Aviva Premiership going into the business end of the season. Up next for Sarries is a trip up the M1 to face Northampton Saints in Milton Keynes. Still all to play for.