By Damian Dolan
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is targeting an historic double-double after seeing his side defend their Champions Cup crown with a 28-17 victory over Clermont Auvergne at Murrayfield.
The reigning Premiership champions now travel to Exeter Chiefs on Saturday (21 May) for their league semi-final clash, knowing that victory will move them one step closer to retaining the title they’ve won for the past two seasons.
If McCall’s men can negotiate Saturday’s tough trip to Sandy Park, then either Wasps or Leicester Tigers will await them in the showpiece Twickenham final on 27 May.
“The pleasing thing was that we looked and felt like we had improved from last year,” said McCall.
“We showed some great qualities; all parts of our game were strong. The age profile of the group is good and if we’re hungry enough and humble enough there’s no reason why we can’t get better.
“Anyone winning back-to-back champions Cup must be very pleased, but for me it was the manner in which we did it, the way in which we played. It was hugely encouraging.”
Tries from Chris Ashton and George Kruis saw Saracens open up a 12-0 lead. Although the French side responded through a Remi Lamerat converted try, Owen Farrell sent Saracens eight points clear. Nick Abendanon’s stunning try brought Clermont back to within a point, but Alex Goode’s try and the boot of Farrell saw the defending champions home.
“Clermont gave us a very good game. I felt we were dominant for very long periods, that we dominated territory and attacked well even though we never pulled away on the scoreboard,” added the Northern Irishman, who took charge of Saracens during the 2010/11 season and has established them as one of European rugby’s heavyweights.
“At 18-17 it felt that we should have been more in control but our reaction to their try was outstanding. We got what we deserved at the end.”
The inaugural winner of the Anthony Foley Memorial Trophy – awarded to the European player of the year – went to Owen Farrell. The Saracens and England playmaker received the award after his side’s win over Clermont.
The award was named in the memory of the former Munster coach, who passed away suddenly in October at the age of 42. Foley’s widow Olive and son Tony presented the trophy to Farrell.
“This is a fitting way to honour Anthony’s memory. He was a great player and a great leader as well as a galvanising force in Munster’s European odyssey,” said EPCR chairman Simon Halliday.
“I would like to thank the Foley family and Munster Rugby for allowing us create this trophy for now and for the future.”
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