Thursday 21 November 2019

Wray targets Europe after Sarries break title duck


Chris Hewett

English titles do not come free with packets of cornflakes: Saracens are only the sixth club in almost a quarter of a century of league activity to win one, and it is a reasonable bet that Nigel Wray, a generous spirit as well as a generous benefactor, has spent more than any of his fellow investors, past or present, in securing the damned thing.

How much cash has he splashed? A figure of £12m is bandied around as a conservative estimate, but the real cost could be virtually double. If his eyes were watering at Twickenham on Saturday evening, there were more reasons than one.

"There have been many doubts and many sleepless nights," he admitted, "but without failure, there is no success. If I'd known what this would cost me, emotionally as well as financially of course, I wouldn't have done it. But risks are the essence of life and I like taking them."

Disappointment of the kind felt by Leicester, the fallen champions, may not be fun, but it isn't terminal either. Richard Cockerill, their director of rugby, made this point afterwards: "If you play in seven finals on the trot, you're likely to lose some of them.


"We'll be trying again next season, when some of the young players we put out there will be that little bit older and that little bit wiser."

The trouble from Leicester's point of view is Mark McCall, his opposite number, can say much the same thing about the likes of the wonderfully assured Owen Farrell, who scored 17 of his side's points, and James Short, who accounted for the rest with the game's only try -- a predator's kill in the left corner.

Saracens also have ambition, momentum and plenty of the folding stuff. Far from an end in itself, this victory was a beginning.

"If you pause and start thinking you're bloody marvellous, you're dead," Wray said. "Show me a complacent man and I'll show you a failure.

"What do we do now? We look at those teams elsewhere in Europe who are doing things we're not yet doing and work out a way of catching up."

And, if that involves him shelling out a few more bob, so be it.

Saracens -- A Goode; D Strettle, C Wyles, B Barritt, J Short; O Farrell, N De Kock (R Wigglesworth 49); M Stevens (R Gill 51), S Brits, C Nieto (P Du Plessis 61), S Borthwick (capt), M Botha (H Vyvyan 56), K Brown, J Burger, E Joubert (A Saull 30-37).

Leicester -- S Hamilton (W Twelvetrees 77); H Agulla, M Smith, A Allen, A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs; M Ayerza (B Stankovich 82), G Chuter (R Hawkins 76), M Castrogiovanni (D Cole 53), S Mafi (E Slater 74), G Skivington, T Croft, C Newby (capt, Crane 65), J Crane (T Waldrom 49).

Ref -- W Barnes (London).

  • Montpellier upset the odds in Saturday's French Top 14 semi-final when a 79th-minute penalty earned them a 26-25 win over Racing Metro and booked a final date with Toulouse next Saturday. (© Independent News Service)

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