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Saracens buck the trend in Europe and convince themselves there is more to come

09 Apr | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Saracens buck the trend in Europe and convince themselves there is more to come

The 'nearly men' of English club rugby upset the form book to beat the Racing certainties.

Moments after Saracens had beaten Racing Metro to reach the semi-finals of rugby’s Champions Cup, boss Mark McCall was fulsome in his praise for the north London club’s achievement. Unashamedly so.

Never mind that his team had needed a last-gasp penalty kick to reach the last four, he said. When you get to this stage it’s not about how you get there, only that you do.

Saracens have learnt this the hard way in recent times. They have been one of England’s most dominant forces for what seems like an age, yet have next to nothing to show for it.

Take last season for example. They finished the regular season sitting on an 11-point cushion at the top of the Aviva Premiership table, yet could not bring home the bacon, losing an impossibly tense final at Twickenham to Northampton. They also reached the final of the last Heineken Cup, and lost that too.

The season before they were again top dogs across the 22-game regular domestic league season, yet bombed out at home in the semis – the same stage that their Heineken Cup charge ended.

Dredge back a further 12 months and there they were again among the top-four elite in the Premiership play-offs, as well as the only English club through to the European Cup knockout rounds. Once again they came up short in both.

No wonder McCall felt no need to justify the manner of his side’s 12-11 win over Racing Metro, the only side to reach the quarter-finals unbeaten in this year’s competition.

Perhaps the better side did not win. Maybe Marcelo Bosch’s 48-metre thunderbolt of a strike, with the last kick of the game, did amount to daylight robbery. So what?

Saracens have played the role of gallant loser too often at the business end of campaigns since becoming English champions for the one and only time in 2011.

So McCall was right to salute his side’s achievement, which was out of the top drawer when you consider Racing’s home advantage and their annual playing budget.

He knows that another year of disappointment remains a distinct possibility, given that they must now return to France for a semi-final against Clermont Auvergne, who were simply glorious in wiping the floor with Northampton.

And given that, despite their second place standing in the league with four rounds left, only three points separate them from the side in fifth spot currently missing out on the play-offs, and they have three of the top-five to play – starting with Leicester Tigers on Saturday.

But to acknowledge any self-doubt at this stage could be fatal, so McCall rightly trumpeted Saracens’ feat in reaching the last four in Europe three years in a row, whilst gently reminding his charges that from now on every game is a cup final.

There is no question that the efforts of the one-time council park outfit deserve a piece of silverware more notable than the Anglo-Welsh trinket they picked up last month. It is equally true however that in life you often do not get what you deserve. Just ask Racing Metro.