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Premiership Final: Buoyant Saracens out to bury the pain of last year’s final

29 May | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Premiership Final: Buoyant Saracens out to bury the pain of last year’s final

North Londoners return to 'house of pain' believing this time will be different

A YEAR ago this weekend Saracens’ players, coaches and support staff locked themselves in a changing room at Twickenham – wanting to throw away the key.

They had just lost the Aviva Premiership final to the very last play of a spellbinding match which had stretched across two additional halves of extra-time.

To a contentious decision still being debated 12 months later.

Coming seven days after defeat in their first European Cup final it was, in the words of Sarries’ softly-spoken director of rugby Mark McCall this week, a “painful place to be”.

That evening McCall looked around the room and realised he had a job on his hands to get his shattered players out of the hole they were in.

“It seemed it was going to be a hard road,” he recalls. “The journey to get back to where we are now seemed difficult.”

A year on here they are, back at Twickenham for their fourth Premiership final in six years. That would be remarkable enough had they dragged their weary carcasses across the finish line.

But it hasn’t been like that at all. Yes, they had to do it the hard way, qualifying for the play-offs in the fourth and final spot, and only on points difference ahead of Exeter.

But adversity has made the club stronger, the group tighter. And their sense of achievement in dethroning champions Northampton last weekend has lifted the spirits to such an extent that they approach Saturday’s contest with Bath like kids given the run of a toyshop.

“We go into this Premiership final in slightly different spirits to last year,” McCall acknowledges. “Last year’s was a physically and mentally draining experience. We go into this one much more buoyant and I’m very proud of that. It shows a lot about the fabric that there is at the club.”

Let us pause at this juncture to state that no matter what shape Saracens are in, beating Bath amounts to one hell of an ask.

Mike Ford’s side have lit up this Premiership campaign with their electrifying brand of rugby. In George Ford and Jonathan Joseph they boast two shining stars, for club and for country.

You can add Francois Louw and Leroy Houston to the list of standout performers. Stuart Hooper, Kyle Eastmond and Anthony Watson haven’t been too shabby either. There is a real belief out west that a first Bath title since 1996 is within reach of this squad.

To win it however they first have to move the immovable. Unlike Leicester, who Bath swept aside last weekend, Saracens arrived in these play-offs armed with expectation rather than vain hope.

They are fed up with losing finals and believe the experience they have gained alongside the heartbreak of previous years stands them in good stead this time.

Top seeds Northampton could not tame their warrior spirit a week ago. Jacques Burger, the Vunipola boys, Jim Hamilton, Owen Farrell were almost too immense for words.

This is a team on a mission to finish the campaign in a happy changing room. So while the heart favours Bath, the head is far from convinced.

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