Saracens blasted their way through to their first European Cup final by thrashing Clermont 46-6 with six tries at Twickenham on Saturday.
Saracens got off to an absolute flier when ex-England wing Chris Ashton found himself in the open in the seventh minute. Five minutes later, they went further ahead when Clermont No 10 Brock James was judged to have deliberately thrown the ball out, conceding a penalty try and earning a yellow card. Clermont did well to not concede a point in that 10 minutes, and could have scored themselves if they had not been guilty of obstruction.
They came back hard at Saracens, but the Londoners' defence, led superbly by Namibian flank Jacques Burger – named Man of the Match for his 27 monster tackles – held strong. Breaking out with good play by Alex Goode and Ashton saw Owen Farrell bundled over to enable Saracens to go into the break 24-6 up.
From there, Clermont were chasing a game that disappeared over the horizon when Saracens were awarded a penalty on the halfway line and Marcelo Bosch was called up to hammer it over. Ashton added a second touchdown to take the record for the most tries scored in a European Cup season (11) and tries by Chris Wyles and Tim Streather capped Saracens' immense display.
Toulon, meanwhile, are two wins away from becoming the third team to record back-to-back title wins, starting with Munster on Sunday.
Toulon are without Bakkies Botha, Ali Williams and Chris Masoe, but their XV still boasts a host of international stars with Bryan Habana lining up in a back three also featuring Delon Armitage and Drew Mitchell. Steffon Armitage packs down in a back row alongside Juan Smith and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
Saracens – Tries: Chris Ashton (2), penalty try, Owen Farrell, Chris Wyles, Tim Streather. Conversions: Alex Goode (5). Penalties: Goode, Marcelo Bosch.
Clermont – Penalties: Morgan Parra (2).
Saracens – 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Mouritz Botha, 4 Steve Borthwick, 3 James Johnston, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Jamie George, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Tim Streather, 23 Chris Wyles.
Clermont – 15 Lee Byrne, 14 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Wesley Fofana, 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Brock James, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Damien Chouly, 6 Julien Bonnaire, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 David Zirakashvili, 2 Benjamin Kayser, 1 Thomas Domingo.
Subs: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Vincent Debaty, 18 Clement Ric, 19 Julien Pierre, 20 Gerhard Vosloo, 21 Thierry Lacrampe, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Seru Nakaitaci.
Photo: Harry Engels/Getty Images
Test Team of the Year
JON CARDINELLI picks the standout 15 players in 2015 as well as a composite side to challenge the world champion All Blacks.
De Allende’s shifting gears
Damian de Allende is determined to take his game to the next level and become a more complete No 12, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Strauss’s tartan allegiance
Former Lions captain Josh Strauss made his Test debut for Scotland at the World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.