3 Things Saracens Must Do to Reach the Heineken Cup Final
Saracens came through the most brutal Heineken Cup game of the season so far to reach a second consecutive Twickenham semi-final.
It keeps Sarries’ dream of a domestic and European double alive as they head the Premiership table and now look forward to a date with Clermont Auvergne at English rugby’s HQ.
Last season they fell at this hurdle to French opposition as Jonny Wilkinson kicked Toulon into the final.
If they are to meet Toulon again this season it will be in Cardiff on final day.
Wilko and Co. will have to overcome Munster for that to happen, while Mark McCall’s men will need to remove last year’s beaten finalists from their path.
Here’s how they can do it.
1. Re-Set Owen Farrell’s Radar
Saracens should have been home and hosed long before the final whistle at Ravenhill.
That they ended up tackling like their lives depended on it as the clock ticked down was due to the shocking kicking display produced by Owen Farrell.
The England No. 10 landed just 1-of-5 attempts on goal throughout the game, which allowed Ulster, playing with 14 men for 74 minutes of the contest, to stay right in the hunt.
Farrell has shown the odd frail moment in front of the posts before but has usually shaken off a rotten kick to slot the next few.
It was not the case in Northern Ireland on Saturday night. Passing up the same number of points in the semi-final is likely to give Clermont a passport to the final.
2. Turn Twickenham into a Black and Red Cauldron
Last season there were over 50,000 empty seats at Twickenham when Saracens lost to Toulon. For a club that prides itself on its forward-thinking approach to marketing that was a surprise.
This time they need to make the ground seethe with passionate home support and plans are already in place, says The Guardian’s Rob Kitson:
Saracens have already been in discussions with European Rugby Cup organisers to try to avoid a repeat. This time there will be discounted family tickets, and the players are determined to make it a day to remember. "The lessons we've learned in the last few seasons will stand us in good stead," stressed Barritt. "We know we're a stronger and better team and we want nothing more than to get to the final and win this competition. It's the next logical step."
Clermont will appreciate the lift a raucous home crowd can give a side.
Their home ground pulsates with a yellow and blue fervor not seen anywhere else in world rugby, and it has seen them win 75 games at home on the spin.
3. Meet Muscle with Muscle
Two seasons ago, Clermont dispatched the Fez Heads at the quarter-final stage with a 22-3 win.
It was a lesson in power for the English side which the Telegraph’s Mick Cleary says they have taken to heart: “Saracens pledged that they would never again be out-muscled in such a comprehensive manner and recruited accordingly. They have been true to their word.”
Against Clermont’s bruising pack and hard-running backs, the Premiership pace-setters will need every ounce of that extra bulk and power to overcome the French giants.