5 Reasons Saracens Thrashed Clermont Auvergne

Daniel ReyFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2014

5 Reasons Saracens Thrashed Clermont Auvergne

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    Sacarens celebrate reaching their first Heineken Cup final
    Sacarens celebrate reaching their first Heineken Cup finalDavid Rogers/Getty Images

    Saracens thrashed Clermont Auvergne 46-6 at Twickenham in the first Heineken Cup semi-final of the weekend. 

    Sarries played with great intensity throughout, combining ferocious defence with piercing attacking play. Whereas their key players rose to the occasion, the highly fancied French side withered more and more as the afternoon went on. 

    Here are the five key reasons why Saracens won so convincingly.

Home Advantage and Early Fortune

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    Saracens would have found the match a lot harder had they been drawn away. Clermont have gone a record 76 games unbeaten at their home, Stade Marcel Michelin, and their crowd generate a pulsating and hostile atmosphere for visiting teams—see video above. But, despite playing at Twickenham, Clermont were still favourites to progress. Indeed, former England centre Jeremy Guscott predicted a 10-point winning margin for the visiting French side. However, early fortune favoured Saracens and Clermont never recovered. To their credit, Sarries put them to the sword.

Losing Captain Aurelien Rougerie Before the Match

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    As well as a leader, Rougerie is a key clog in Clermont's attack and defence
    As well as a leader, Rougerie is a key clog in Clermont's attack and defenceBryn Lennon/Getty Images

    Aurelien Rougerie was badly missed in Clermont’s midfield. With 76 caps for France, the captain of Clermont would have kept his side focused despite Saracens’ fast start. Instead, his team shipped 46 points. His intuitive centre partnership with Wesley Fofana would have severely tested the Sarries defence.

Jacques Burger and Sarries’ Phenomenal Defence

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    Jacques Burger (centre) was wholehearted in the tackle
    Jacques Burger (centre) was wholehearted in the tackleShaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Even the creative flair of Wesley Fofana was insufficient to break the resilient Saracens defence, with Brad Barritt and Marcelo Bosch ceding very little ground in midfield. Moreover, Namibian flanker Jacques Burger was man of the match and made a number of shuddering hits, completing a monumental 27 tackles in the 69 minutes he was on the field.

Saracens' Incisive Attacking Play

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    Saracens wing David Strettle offloads out of a tackle by Napolioni Nalaga
    Saracens wing David Strettle offloads out of a tackle by Napolioni NalagaShaun Botterill/Getty Images

    While Clermont were unable to gain momentum in the contact area, Saracens attacked with pace. Owen Farrell’s try, Saracens' third, came after Saracens picked up a loose ball on halfway and Alex Goode and Chris Ashton ran incisive lines to score. Similarly, Chris Wyles’ try came from a first-phase ball after a penetrating run by Ashton, the winger then demonstrating the composure to pass out wide.

Chris Ashton

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    Chris Ashton showed energy, attacking prowess and big-match mentality
    Chris Ashton showed energy, attacking prowess and big-match mentalityHarry Engels/Getty Images

    In the build up to the match, Ashton reaffirmed his desire to gain an England recall. Speaking to BBC Radio 5Live, he noted: “I'm only 27, I'd like to think I'm heading in to my prime and I've got a lot to offer still.” After two tries against Ulster in the previous round, and two more yesterday, he will hope to feature in England’s summer tour to New Zealand.

    Both tries against Clermont showcased his attacking prowess. His first try saw him leave his right-wing berth to pick up the ball on the left and finish an intricate Saracens move from 20 metres out. For his second, he showed good control of the ball on the floor, grubber kicking it to the line to score.