Tuesday 21 November 2017

Clermont lack the bottle to bank Champions Cup

Champions Cup Final: Saracens v Clermont Live Sky Sports 3 & BT Sport 2, KO 5.0

Saracens’ Mark McCall
Saracens’ Mark McCall

Saracens are standing on the precipice of a legacy that will stand the test of time.

The English club will bid to become the fourth club to go back-to-back in the European Cup at Murrayfield tomorrow, joining Leicester Tigers (2001 & 2002), Leinster (2011 & 2012) and Toulon, who actually completed three on the trot (2013, 2014 & 2015).

Director of Rugby Mark McCall has overseen the march to 17 matches unbeaten to equal Leinster's record set between 2010 and 2012, by also winning 16 and drawing one.

It is their consistency of performance in building year-on-year that has seen them reach the last five semi-finals and three of the last four finals.

They will come to the Scottish capital knowing what it feels like to win and lose and, more crucially , what it takes to win.

Most neutrals' second favourite club Clermont-Auvergne are where Munster were before they reached out to grasp the Holy Grail in 2006.

They have had to stomach more than their fair share of heartbreak, beginning with that quarter-final defeat to Leinster in 2010.

They are one game away from becoming the only club to make three finals and lose all of them.

In many ways, this defines the French club in this competition.

They have everything in place to win it. They just haven't had the bottle to bank it.

The statistics back up the argument that this battle could come down to what happens in the first-half.

Sarries have not conceded even one try in the first 40 this season in a stunning reflection of how their game is built around their defence.

However, Clermont have been able to punch in more tries (16) in that period than any other club in in the competition in tribute to their attacking outlook.

It was the lightening opening in Lyon that gave Leinster too high a mountain to climb.

Even so, Les Jaunards began to wilt as the pace of the game put demands on their physical fitness.

The injuries to France centre Wesley Fofana and wing Noa Nakaitaci are daggers they are unlikely to survive for these are two men who can single-handedly defy the best defences.

Saracens will play for every minute of the match and have made a habit out of ripping victory form the jaws of defeat, especially in The Premiership.

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