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Owen Farrell switches Saracens' focus to possible double after European triumph

Published 14/05/2016

Saracens' Billy Vunipol helped his side with the European Champions Cup
Saracens' Billy Vunipol helped his side with the European Champions Cup

Saracens hero Owen Farrell will focus on a possible double that has not been achieved in English rugby for 12 years after plotting Racing 92's European Champions Cup final downfall.

Farrell booted seven penalties from seven attempts in a 21-9 success, outshining his revered opposite number Dan Carter at Grand Stade de Lyon and taking Saracens to the summit of European rugby.

Not since Lawrence Dallaglio's Wasps in 2007 had an English team won European club rugby's most coveted trophy, and it could get even better for Saracens, as they are just two wins away from successfully defending their Aviva Premiership title.

Wasps were also the last English team to complete a domestic and European double, but the fact that was in 2004 underlines its acute degree of difficulty.

"Everyone wants to finish the year off well. We have half done it, but we still have got two games to go," Farrell said.

"This is right up there. I have not ranked my (career) achievements, but it is a special day. It is a European final that we have won, and to come out as the champions is very special. Hopefully, there are more of these days to come.

"It is all about finding a way to win and being adaptable. I thought we were very calm on the field."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall paid a glowing tribute to Farrell, whose half-back combination with Richard Wigglesworth proved a major factor in Racing's demise.

"I thought our half-backs were excellent," said McCall. "We looked to constantly pressurise Racing with our kicking game, and they were at the heart of that.

"This means an awful lot. I am personally thrilled for the playing group, but also the staff and people like (Saracens chairman) Nigel Wray, who has invested 20 years of his heart and soul into this.

"What we said in the week was that we truly believe if we are humble enough and hungry enough, which I know we are, there are more good days ahead for us.

"Two years ago, we weren't good enough to beat Toulon (in the European Cup final) and they kept us at arm's length. Today, I thought we kept Racing at arm's length."

Saracens skipper Brad Barritt added: "I am immensely proud to be part of this team. It is a bit of an overwhelming experience, but it is so pleasing.

"We knew we had a point to prove, and that was to do it on the big stage on the day when it mattered."

Racing's New Zealand World Cup winner Carter departed injured just two minutes into the second half - Racing had already seen his half-back partner Maxime Machenaud go off - and three Johan Goosen penalties were their solitary scoring contributions during a final that Saracens never seriously looked like losing.

Their triumph ended a run of Irish and French dominance in Europe, while Saracens also became the first team in the competition's history to stay unbeaten, winning nine successive games, including six pool matches.

A 58,000 crowd witnessed a tryless final, but Saracens will not care less as they compensated for defeat against a Jonny Wilkinson-inspired Toulon two years ago when the French heavyweights completed the second stage of an eventual European title hat-trick.

Racing head coach Laurent Labit, though, rejected any suggestion it had been a fitness gamble to play Carter.

"It was not a bad call," he said. "It was logical.

"He is a highly-experienced player, and even though he was not 100 per cent, we thought he'd be able to manage for 40 or 50 minutes. We made a choice, but collectively we weren't up to the challenge.

"We are not looking for excuses, injuries or whatever. Saracens controlled the game very well, they were very powerful collectively and had better experience than us. In every domain they were better than us.

"No-one has been able to beat them. They're a great team that suffocates their opponents and takes every opportunity to put pressure on them."

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