Saracens setting sights on double-double
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Premiership title is target after European glory
Saracens were crowned European champions for the second successive season after a thrilling encounter with Clermont Auvergne at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The Hendon-based club’s strong second-half showing put the Top 14 side out of contention, as they finished 28-17 winners.
And the win sees Sarries join Leinster, Leicester Tigers and Toulon as the only teams to have successfully defended a European crown.
Saracens’ win over Clermont also set a record for consecutive wins in the European competition with 18.
But the occasion wasn’t just reward as a collective. Individually, the cup win was also reward for Owen Farrell and Chris Ashton.
The latter, who scored the first of three tries in Edinburgh, overtook Frenchman Vincent Clerc as the competition’s top try scorer with 37.
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But it signalled more than just a try-scoring milestone, as the game was also winger Ashton’s final tie in the European competition, following his move to Toulon next season.
The try celebration had more of a thank you and goodbye resonance culminating in the end of his Saracens career.
Such an incredible achievement might have been further rewarded with a Lions call-up or even a shot at the Argentina tour with England in the summer, but it was not to be and the Sarries flyer will ply his trade in the Top 14 next year.
For Farrell, Saturday confirmed his status as Europe’s best as he was named European Player of the Year.
It could have been a double-header, had All Blacks star Beauden Barrett not beaten him to World Player of the Year earlier in the season.
But the recognition that Farrell has received underlines his stature as a player, domestically and internationally with England. At just 26, he has arguably his best years still ahead.
Farrell has been a pivotal figure in the Saracens’ arsenal this season and likewise will be in the Premiership semi-final against Exeter Chiefs this weekend.
The north Londoners beat the Chiefs 34-13 at Sandy Park in round two back in September, but the success of the Champions Cup win will be all the motivation needed to reach a fourth consecutive final.
But since that game early on in the league campaign, the Chiefs have certainly been a side on the up and fully deserved their position and perhaps even should have finished the regular season above Wasps.
The previous seven outings for the Chiefs have resulted in maximum points – a record in the Premiership, but Saracens have an uncanny knack of halting other teams’ success.
With only two possible games remaining, the double double is still very much on.