February 22, 2018

Mark McCall could be aptly described as 'The Quiet Man' of rugby

15 May 2017, 12:55 | Marlene Fleming

REUTERS Lola the sheep dog- dressed as a Lion- sits as the Lions team prepare for a team

Lola the sheep dog- dressed as a Lion- sits as the Lions team prepare for a team

He played in their 2015 Champions Cup final defeat to Toulon, and was again left with the runners-up spot on Saturday at Murrayfield despite his impressive performance against Saracens. With Clermont still scrambling back into covering positions, Kruis arrived at the flawless moment to crash over.

Clermont rebounded with a Remi Lamerat converted try to trail 12-7 at halftime.

Clermont desperately needed a foothold in the game and they have too much class in their ranks not to find a response.

A five-metre scrum presented the chance to strike, with Fritz Lee and Morgan Parra combining to feed Aurelien Rougerie.

Clermont had just one attack inside the Sarries 22 throughout the entire first half but, to their credit, they made it count.

Parra added the conversion and a penalty on the one hour mark. A break by Brits carved an opening for prop Vincent Koch - if it had been Ashton on his shoulder it would have been another try - and Clermont were mightily relieved not to concede a penalty try when Camille Lopez knocked on Wyles's pass to Ashton with the line at his mercy.

Yet the French side were not done yet.

Eventually a fumble by full-back Scott Spedding led to a try by his opposite number Alex Goode who darted through a gap wide on the right but only after the big men in red had done their usual softening up job.

That set up a tense final quarter-hour but it was Saracens who emerged on top as Goode got the decisive score, making the most of Marcelo Bosch's decoy run to speed over in the corner.

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Parra's conversion brought Clermont to within a point of Sarries before he exchanged successful penalties with Farrell.

Saracens marched down the other end and Farrell scored a penalty to seal the victory.

"But we've been in these positions before - three years ago, we were in a semi-final and lost to Clermont, and the year before that we were in a final against Toulon and lost".

It was a record 18th match unbeaten in the competition, but centre Brad Barritt said all that mattered was keeping the trophy.

"They have a very easy game plan and every player knows exactly what they have to be doing on the pitch at exactly the right time".

'We had unbelievable respect for Clermont and everything they've done as a team but we stayed true to our roots and that's what makes us tick as a Saracens team. But Saracens then made all the play, missing a couple of good try chances by a bad pass and good defence until, nearly inevitably, captain Owen Farrell's delayed pass put fullback Alex Goode into a gap and over the line with seven minutes to go.

"The pleasing thing was it felt and looked like we improved from a year ago".

A try scorer and try maker in the semi-final win over Leinster Rugby, Strettle is still included in the Saracens team "WhatsApp" group. "Of course we believed we could win after our second try but they put us under pressure all the time".

After winning the Aviva Premiership twice in a row, Saracens are on the verge of going down as one of the great teams in English and European rugby history, but it is the here and now that Barritt wants to focus on. "We still have a lot of work to do before I feel comfortable saying we're a great team".

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