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Match Reaction: Saracens create history with third European triumph

Match Reaction: Saracens create history with third European triumph

Saracens produced a stunning fightback to claim their third European title in four years as they defeated Leinster 20-10 in the Champions Cup final at St James’ Park.

The Irish province, the defending European champions, appeared in total control before the half-time break after establishing a 10-0 lead thanks to a Tadhg Furlong try.

But Owen Farrell closed the deficit with a penalty before Sean Maitland walked in a try with the clock in the red to ensure the two club heavyweights went into the interval level.

Leinster continued to look threatening after the restart, but it was Saracens who put their foot on the gas after taking the lead for the first time through another Farrell penalty.

The Gallagher Premiership Rugby side then sealed victory when Billy Vunipola crashed over the line from the back of a scrum with just more than ten minutes left on the clock.

And Saracens stood firm against Leinster to close out the game and secure a historic hat-trick of European triumphs, having score 20 unanswered points to claim the title.

MAN OF THE MATCH

There were heroic efforts all over the field for Saracens, but Brad Barritt was the star of the show as the skipper led from the from front with a remarkable 28 tackles.

Man of the match Barritt said: “We’ve spoken the last few weeks about being a tough team. You have to soak up pressure and respond when you get the opportunity.

“The whole organisation has been working so hard for this and I’m really pleased we could pull it off. Leinster are an unbelievable team with very few weaknesses.

“We wanted to throw the kitchen sink at them and not hold back. The amount of players that have come through our academy and the bonds between everyone have got stronger and stronger.”

TRY OF THE MATCH

It has to go to Saracens’ first try – not just for its quality, but also for its importance.

The Gallagher Premiership Rugby outfit looked in trouble at 10-0 down with Maro Itoje off the pitch after being sin-binned for repeated offside offences.

Owen Farrell’s penalty eased Saracens back into it and gave Mark McCall’s men a glimmer of hope, before Luke’s McGrath’s decision not to kick the ball out came back to haunt him.

With the clock in the red, Saracens were awarded a penalty and Farrell found the corner. Leinster were sucked into a forward battle before Farrell switched the play for Sean Maitland to score.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

During a fast and frantic match, there were a number of game-changing moments.

Sean Maitland’s huge tackle on Jack Conan, and George Kruis’ follow up, was crucial before half time as Saracens got on the scoreboard for the first time through an Owen Farrell penalty.

The Scotland winger’s try moments later was also vital, allowing Saracens to wipe out Leinster’s early lead going into the break, but Billy Vunipola’s try was the biggest moment of them all.

With Leinster this time down to 14 men after Scott Fardy was sin-binned, Saracens piled on the pressure and Vunipola dived over from the back of the scrum to seal the victory.

WHAT THEY SAID

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: “After Maro Itoje got sin-binned it was incredible to be level at half-time and the second half was as well as we’ve played in a final.

“It’s a great victory. This is a group that have been through a lot – good and bad – and they want to work hard for each other. We were 10-0 down against a quality team so this is a massive win.”

Saracens back-rower Maro Itoje said: “It’s very special. Winning our third Champions Cup is truly amazing. Our team is like a family so it’s a beautiful feeling.

“My yellow card was all part of the master plan. The team ironically started playing better when I was off the pitch. When things go against us it galvanises us.

“When we’re against the wall that’s when we truly show our character.

“We needed to up our physicality and our work rate and the rest is history. We’ll celebrate tonight and maybe tomorrow then we’ll see what happens after that.”

Saracens number eight Billy Vunipola said: “It’s very humbling. I am truly grateful that we have a group pf players that love playing for each other.

“When we are down we try to look after each other. To do what we did showed the character of the team and depth of the squad.

“We wanted to try to stay in touch and nearly conceded at the start of the second half but we held them out and that’s part of the culture of the lads.

“We’ve worked on that move for the try. I probably wouldn’t have hurt my shoulder if I didn’t go for it. It’s á bit sore but I think I am being a bit soft.”

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