Rugby

Goode seals Saracens back-to-back European Cups

2017-05-13 20:38
Alex Goode (Getty)

Edinburgh - Alex Goode struck the decisive blow as title-holders Saracens retained the European Champions Cup with a 28-17 win over Clermont in a dramatic final at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The London club were just a point in front at 18-17 when the ex-England fullback crossed seven minutes from time following Owen Farrell's delayed pass.

England goalkicker Farrell, off target with a couple of earlier efforts, then landed the touchline conversion to put Saracens two scores in front at 25-17.

France flyhalf Camille Lopez missed a kickable penalty before Farrell's own kick from the tee rounded off the scoring.

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.

Saracens also set a new record of 18 matches unbeaten in the Champions Cup, beating the mark of 17 they had shared with Ireland's Leinster.

"It was one of our best performances of the year," Goode told BT Sport.

"We left a few chances out there but our attack was superb today. For my try I was just lucky to get the final pass."

Saracens boss Mark McCall was particularly pleased by his side's all-round game.

"While we defended well, we attacked too, so it feels good to win it the way we did," he said.

Defeat enhanced Clermont's reputation as rugby's 'nearly' side.

This was their third loss in as many European Cup finals, with Clermont also beaten in 11 of their 12 appearances in France's domestic Top 14 final, and meant more heartache for their loyal 'Yellow Army' of passionate fans.

"We are absolutely gutted," said fullback Scott Spedding. 

"We don't know what we're missing but hopefully one day it turns our way."

They could still claim this season's Top 14 title, however, and coach Franck Azema said: "We still have one competition to win."

Chris Ashton, in his final European appearance with Saracens before joining Clermont's French rivals Toulon, opened the scoring with a record-breaking 37th tournament try.

George Kruis powered over for a converted try before Clermont hit back with one of their own from Remi Lamerat to leave Saracens 12-7 up at half-time. 

Clermont closed the gap before Saracens, with man-of-the-match and powerhouse No 8 Billy Vunipola prominent, yet again pulled away in the last quarter.

Saracens came within yards of an opening try in the second minute on a rain-sodden pitch.

Clever interplay between flyhalf Farrell and Argentina centre Marcelo Bosch created an opening for Ashton, but he was hauled down by fellow Englishman and opposing wing Nick Abendanon.

However, Ashton was not to be denied and the former England international opened the scoring in the 13th minute, thus breaking the 36-try mark he had shared with former France star Vincent Clerc.

Ashton pounced on Goode's clever grubber kick behind Spedding before diving over in trademark fashion.

Farrell's touchline conversion hit the post, however, and he then fell short with a long-range penalty.

But Saracens were soon 12-0 up.

Goode found captain Brad Barritt in support and, after he had made ground, lock Kruis - one of six England players in Saracens' starting XV picked for the British and Irish Lions upcoming tour of New Zealand - came from deep and crashed over in the 21st minute, with Farrell converting.

Clermont desperately needed to score next and did just that as Saracens conceded their first try in the opening half of a Champions Cup match this season.

Following a close-range scrum, Aurelien Rougerie took the ball up and after he was denied, fellow centre Lamerat went low to score, with Morgan Parra converting.

Relentless Saracens' pressure following a Clermont kick out on the full ended with Farrell knocking over a simple penalty in front of the posts.

But Clermont came storming back with a brilliant length of the field try. 

Spedding started a fine handling move with a swerving run before Peceli Yato fended off Farrell and found Abendanon, who went in at the corner. 

Parra converted and Clermont were just a point down at 15-14.

Farrell and Parra then exchanged penalties to leave Saracens 18-17 ahead before the champions pulled clear late on.


Read more on:    saracens  |  alex goode  |  rugby
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