Saracens overcome Leinster to win European Cup
Saracens became the Champions of Europe for the third time in four seasons with a 20-10 victory over holders Leinster.
It was the second north London comeback of the week as Sarries followed Tottenham Hotspurs’ lead by coming back from 10-0 down to win.
Johnny Sexton’s boot and Tadhg Furlong had built a healthy advantage but Owen Farrell’s success from the tee and a Sean Maitland score levelled matters at the interval.
Farrell knocked over a second-half penalty to put Saracens ahead and Billy Vunipola crashed over to secure the title.
Fireworks and a noisy buzz around St James’ Park was settled down by an early Sexton shot at goal, three points which allowed Sarries to start again.
Mark McCall’s men looked bright and hungry. Billy Vunipola got his hands on the ball several times in the opening exchanges, attempting to punch holes in the Leinster defence while Alex Lozowski’s guile began to influence the flow of the contest.
In their way stood a stern Irish defence and when Goode was stripped on the 22, Jordan Larmour showcased his speed on the outside but his slight fumble meant he didn’t break into the Saracens danger zone.
However, Leinster did carve an opening just past the half-hour mark. Rob Kearney’s weaving run saw him make the five-metre and when the ball was slow in coming out of the ruck, Maro Itoje was sent to the sin bin.
Mako Vunipola and Titi Lamositele followed the England forward as enforced replacements and the province opted to use their man advantage in the pack by opting for a scrum. Jack Conan picked from the base and Furlong then forced his way over.
The score was important and Saracens’ physicality earned them a penalty which Farrell dispatched.
From there, the first-half momentum shifted. With Itoje back on the field, the Men in Red piled the pressure on. A number of pick and goes were thwarted inches from the whitewash but clever awareness from Ben Spencer led to Farrell whipping the ball wide to Maitland to touch down.
Farrell nailed his touchline conversion with the clock in the red to level things up and end an incredible first 40.
Leinster were out of the blocks in the second period but a sensational Liam Williams turnover and an excellent piece of George Kruis defensive line-out work lifted the decibel levels of the Sarries supporters once more.
That went up a level when the north Londoners thought they had the ball against the foot of the post. When referee Jerome Garces ruled ‘no try’, he subsequently yellow carded Scott Fardy and Farrell added to his tally to give his side the lead for the first time.
Sarries made their man advantage count. Dismantling the Leinster scrum, they opted to scrum again after Garces raised his arm and Billy Vunipola smashed his way to the line on the stretch. Farrell added the extras to put breathing space between the two teams.
The last 12 minutes or so Leinster hammered at the door but found a typical Wolfpack defence in their way. Nothing was taking that third star away from Saracens.