Stret­tle faces Cham­pi­ons Cup fi­nal re­union with Sara­cens

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - RUGBY UNION - CARL LIVESEY

FOR­MER Rother­ham winger David Stret­tle is braced for a tough re­union with for­mer team Sara­cens when his Cler­mont Au­vergne side face the English club in the Euro­pean Cham­pi­ons Cup fi­nal.

Stret­tle, who spent five years with Sara­cens, scored one of Cler­mont’s two tries in their 27-22 semi-fi­nal vic­tory over Le­in­ster at the Mat­mut Ger­land Sta­dium.

It means the French side set up a meet­ing with Mark McCall’s men at Mur­ray­field on May 13.

Pe­celi Yato and Stret­tle, plus the boot of Mor­gan Parra, put Cler­mont in con­trol be­fore Le­in­ster roared back into the game.

Johnny Sex­ton ended the game with five penal­ties and con­verted Garry Rin­grose’s try, but Camille Lopez’s two late drop goals took the Top 14 team home.

“That was a tough game. We knew Le­in­ster wouldn’t give up,” Stret­tle said.

“We said we had to start well in front of this re­mark­able crowd and we did that. But we knew they would have a pur­ple patch and they did.

“In Camille we have got a player who can con­trol the game. Now we have to go and do it all over again in the fi­nal. You can see how good a team Sara­cens are. It is go­ing to take a hell of a job to beat them.”

Mark McCall hailed Sara­cens’ “ex­tra­or­di­nary” de­fence as they swept aside Mun­ster 26-10 at the Aviva Sta­dium to reach the Cham­pi­ons Cup fi­nal.

To book their place at Mur­ray­field they were forced to ab­sorb a fe­ro­cious first-half on­slaught from Mun­ster, yet still led 6-3 at half-time be­fore pulling clear through tries from Mako Vu­nipola and Chris Wyles.

“I thought our de­fence was ex­tra­or­di­nary. Our de­fence was the big thing. We soaked up a lot of pres­sure and coped with their at­tack re­ally well,” said di­rec­tor of rugby McCall.

“The game started ex­actly as they would have wanted. We couldn’t re­ally es­cape our half in the first half, but our de­fence re­mained good.

“We just need to stay pa­tient and per­sis­tent as a group and not get frus­trated, and I thought we did and the pres­sure even­tu­ally told. It was a bril­liant oc­ca­sion. Mun­ster’s sup­port­ers are as good as any in the world. In the face of that, the fight and the to­geth­er­ness we had to show to win the game was bril­liant.”

Bath flanker Fran­cois Louw found his side’s last-gasp Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup semi­fi­nal de­feat to Stade Fran­cais a bit­ter pill to swal­low.

Todd Black­ad­der’s men were beaten 28-25 in Paris as Ge­orge Ford missed with a penalty ef­fort with the game’s fi­nal play in an at­tempt to send the match into ex­tra-time.

Tries from Semesa Roko­duguni, Rob­bie Fruean and El­liott Stooke had seen Bath over­turn an 18-6 deficit to move back ahead, but it was not enough as Hugh Pyle’s 50m ef­fort and the con­ver­sion and a drop goal from Jules Plis­son sent Stade through to a fi­nal with Gloucester.

“It’s very tough to take. It was tough at the start, we didn’t be­gin very well. But we got our­selves into a good po­si­tion with 10 to go and we thought we had it,” said back-row for­ward Louw.

DAVID STRET­TLE: Scored a try as Cler­mont Au­vergne beat Le­in­ster 27-22.

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