Rugby Union European Championship Cup Final Preview
Wolf Pack Defence vs Michelin Flair Attack. Who will win?
Both teams have been near to the top of the pile in their respective leagues and both have a chance to win the biggest prize of European rugby. So how do both teams come into this final?
Saracens in this year of the Europeans Champions Cup has been marked by no losses; they now share the record with Leinster for the most amount of consecutive wins in the competition with 17 wins on the trot. Saracens in the Quarterfinals beat Glasgow Warriors at Allianz Park comfortably by 38 points to 13. Then came the real test, Munster away at the Aviva Stadium. Saracens were against a sea of red and some of the most passionate fans you are ever likely to come across. However, against all of this Saracens came out on top. Some could argue that Munster were not at the races and the result could have been a lot closer. This may be true but Saracens made sure that they came out on top at the Aviva Stadium, the third time asking for an English team (England in the RBS 6 Nations and Wasps in their Quarter Final against Leinster).
Saracens seemed at the end of this Semi Final, seemed to be an unstoppable force. However, last
weekend the Wolf pack stumbled. Saracens come into this final having just lost their final game of the regular game of the Aviva Premiership to Wasps. However, this was with a side that was depleted with their star players such as Owen Farrel, Maro Itoje, Mako & Billy Vunipola, and Chris Ashton. Unlike Saracens, they lost their forward dominance after 50 minutes. They will have to improve upon that before tomorrow’s game.
Leinster in this year’s competition have only once lost in the pool stages to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium and only by 7 points. In their Quarter Final game, they were able to beat the grunt and the financially powerful Toulon at the Stade Marcel Michelin by 29
points to 9, scoring the only two tries of the game. After this, came the blue men from Dublin with a star-studded cast including Jonathon Sexton, Tadh Furlong, Gary Ringrose, Robby Henshaw and Isa Nacewa. Clermont didn’t lack for quality with players such as Nick Abendanon, David Strettle, Camile Lopez and Morgan Parra. Once again Lopez’s boot was key and the attacking play of the backs gave them the marginal advantage with the final score being 27 to 22. I believe that with the fixture in France, at the Matmut Stadium, this also proved to be the difference for Clermont winning that contest.
The men from the Auvergne come into the final with an even win over Top 14 league leaders La Rochelle by 30 points to 26. The Michelin men were very good in attack with slick passing, cutting running lines from the backs and even scoring off a cross-field kick. However, their defense in the second half was nearly left to be desired with La Rochelle scoring 20 un-answered points. The will have to be tighter in defense in the last part of the game tomorrow.
Both side will be wanting to come into the contest wanting to win, and both would want to play an
attacking style of rugby. However, I wonder whether the wolf pack mentality of Saracens’ defence might once again prove to be the difference. This after all is Saracens chance to go for the double double, to win both the European Champions Cup Competition and the Aviva Premiership. Clermont Auvergne have been at the final twice in the last 5 years, and both times they have lost. Seemingly they are a bridesmaid, not the bride.
So the verdict: I think that Saracens will become double consecutive champions of the European Champions Cup competition. This will be due to the defensive qualities of the forward pack and the strategic running and kicking of the backs. Clermont will fight Saracens in broken play, they are very good in open play. Both sides will be away, in Scotland and there is rain forecasted before the start of the game, which will impact the way that both sides play. However, this is the final after all, it will all come down to what happens on the day.
Morgan shall be reporting for BURN FM and the Brum Rugby Show tomorrow at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh tomorrow.