Saracens stormed into the Heineken Cup final, after an extraordinary 46-6 victory over Clermont Auvergne at Twickenham.
An explosive first-half saw tries from England duo Chris Ashton and Owen Farrell, whilst a penalty try meant the Sarries had a formidable advantage over their French opponents.
It looked like it was going to be all Clermont in the second period, but the Sarries did not stop attacking with more waves and more tries. Ashton got his second, whilst replacements Chris Wyles and Tim Streather finished off one of the greatest performances by an English club in the Heineken Cup, dismantling and humiliating one of the best European teams around.
Saracens made home advantage count straight from the off, touching down for the first try of the match after just eight minutes. Hooker Schalk Brits passed a short ball to Brad Barritt down the left side, who then gave it to England winger Ashton in space for him to sprint to the line and dive over. A brilliant move finished with a classy kick from full-back Alex Goode, adding the extras to put Saracens 7-0 up.
Clermont scrum-half Morgan Parra notched one of only two penalties in the match to get his side of the mark, but just a minute later, the home side had another try, this time in the form of a penalty one.
From the breakdown, Clermont played the ball back to Lee Byrne, whose kick was charge down by Mako Vunipola. The loose ball was left to be challenged by Saracens centre Marcelo Bosch and Clermont’s Brock James, who knocked it out of touch. After several replays with the television match official, referee Nigel Owens came to the decision to not only send James to the bin, but also to award the hosts a penalty try.
A controversial verdict, but not the only one as Clermont had a try ruled out after Damien Chouly obstructed England fly-half Farrell to allow Stanley to go over. Parra had passed to Sitiveni Sivivatu, who went behind Chouly, to throw it to Stanley to touch down. Yet, Chouly’s obstruction and take down of Farrell meant referee Owens had no other choice but to disallow the try.
Whilst Parra did kick over for another penalty, Saracens got their third try of the game, and this time it was Farrell who went over. Ashton, once again causing Clermont problems down the wings, passed inside to his number 10. Using his knee to help the ball along, Farrell gathered it up and went over to spark more wild celebrations in Twickenham, as the Clermont players were left in a state of confusion.
Another conversion and a penalty from Goode gave Sarries a massive 24-6 lead going into the break.
The second half was little less dominant from the home side when going forward, but their defensive solidarity was as good, if not better, than the first period. Flanker Jacques Burger was a standout player, demoralising any Clermont player getting close to the hosts’ defensive line.
Goode did extend Sarries’ lead with a penalty, but it was Ashton again to get another try at Twickenham - and one to make him the highest try-scoring player in a single season in the Heineken Cup.
With only 15 minutes to play, Saracens were still pressing their opponents, and after a superb tackle from Brits allowed the ball to go loose, the England winger kicked it across the whitewash and dived to touch it down for his second try of the game. Goode missed the conversion, his first poor kick of the game, but it was not going to worry the home side, as they were 32 points to six up.
Yet, there was still time for some more bone-crunching tackles, as Brad Barritt rampaged through another Clermont player. All in an attempt to catch man-of-the-match Burger in terms of most tackles in the game, who produced an outstanding performance, not giving Clermont a second or even a millimetre of space to breathe.
And Saracens still did not care they were so far ahead, pushing for more tries, and getting one with seven minutes to go. Ashton burst through the Clermont line, before unleashing a long ball out wide. Tim Streather caught it, before offloading to Barritt, who set Wyles on his way to the sixth try of the game. Goode added the extras from the boot, to make it the highest scoring Heineken Cup semi-final ever.
But the Sarries still continued their dominance, with their pacey counter-attack from a turnover and Streather touched down. Goode kicked over once again in the overtime finishing an impressive and almost unbelievable victory over Clermont.
Saracens will surely now go into the final on 24th May at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, as the favourites to the trophy, no matter whether they face reigning champions Toulon or Irish heavyweights Munster.
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