Saracens will be looking to hold onto their Champions Cup crown when they take on Clermont at BT Murrayfield this Saturday.
What a way to cap off the European Rugby season! In one corner you have English pragmaticism in the form of an extremely well-drilled Saracens outfit, while in the other you have French flair in abundance with an expansive Clermont outfit. Both sides have played some magnificent rugby this term and this clash of styles could prove to go down as one of the finest European finals ever to have been played.
Clermont v Saracens | Saturday 13 May | BT Murrayfield | 18:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont 37/20 | Draw 19/1 | Saracens 9/20
The Vulcans have enjoyed a terrific European campaign that has masked some of their indifferent domestic form. While they do sit second on the Top 14 log, they have endured a few patch runs along the way. But this is the Champions Cup and their form in this particularly completion has been nothing short of immaculate with their only defeat coming in away Pool phase tie at Ulster.
While they were really good during the Pool phase, their knock–out phase performances have been spectacular. A 29-9 quarter-final victory over domestic rivals Toulon was followed by a 27-22 semi-final victory over Leinster. The aforementioned game was the ideal preparation for this final as Clermont had to show a lot of composure as Leinster put in a dogged second-half fightback.
One man who had a blinder against Leinster and will need to be on his game this weekend is Camile Lopez. The pivot proved he’s more than capable of mixing up his attacking game with a bit of Morne Steyn-esque fly-half play, as he slotted two terrific drop-goals in the semi-final. While Lopez was named BT’s man of the match, the true heroes were the Clermont forwards, who destroyed a Leinster scrum which featured Irish international props Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath. The big men will need to front up once again as they take on a Sarries outfit that features international props Vincent Koch and Mako Vunipoala.
Is this the best European rugby side to ever take to a field? No, it’s the best squad to ever take to the field. You don’t go through two Champions Cup campaigns undefeated without having some insane playing depth. And boy do ‘Sarries have playing depth. I mean Schalk Burger struggles to get a look-in when the Sarries English internationals aren’t away.
There’s actually a lot of negativity surrounding this Saracens side. Whether this is due to their brazened flaunt of the Aviva Premiership salary cap, or it’s similar to the issue most had with the Alex Ferguson Manchester United sides – everyone hates a winner – is up for debate. But one thing is for sure, ‘Sarries are unlikely to get a lot of support from neutral fans this weekend. Which shouldn’t really matter, as a whole host of Wolf Pack disciples will make a short pilgrimage to Edinburgh to cheer on their Messiahs this Saturday.
Speaking of Saracens away days, the North London club come into Saturday’s game off the back of Aviva Premiership away defeat to Wasps. The 35-15 defeat needs to be put in perspective, however, as Sarries rested a handful of their stalwarts, including talismanic pivot Owen Farrell.
Talking of Farrell, the English international played a brilliant hand in last year’s final, scoring all his side’s points in their 21-9 victory over Dan Carter’s Racing metro. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Farrell will once again have a big say in the Grand Final.
The Stats That Matter
If Saracens win on Saturday they will become the first English side to claim back-to-back European titles since Leicester, who won the Heineken Cup in 2001 and 2002. It will also be the second time Saracens have claimed a European Cup title. Should Clermont win, it would be their first ever title.
This will only be Clermont’s third appearance in a European Cup final. Their two other sorties ended in tears as they lost the 2013 final 16-15 to Toulon and the 2014-15, 24-18 to the same opposition.
The last four European Cup Finals have seen total scorelines under 35 points – go low if you’re having a dabble on the Live In-Play points markets.
Verdict: Saracens 9/20
Their big guns will be fresh after being rested against Wasps and that plus their freakishly talented bench should see them through here. Can you bet against a side that can throw on Schalk Britz, Sean Maitland and Alex Lozowski for the final 20-minutes? I certainly can’t.