What happens when an unstoppable force meets an irresistible object? This is an age old question that has exercised the finest theological minds for centuries.
The answer so far has proved elusive but Saturday night’s Anglo-French showdown between Clermont and Saracens should finally provide some clues.
Free-flowing and care free Clermont are our unstoppable force.
No-one has scored more tries in the Top 14 this year than Franck Azéma’s side – 87 in 22 games in the regular season – and they’ve averaged nearly four touchdowns per match in Europe en route to this weekend’s final in Edinburgh.
The tireless, dogged defence of Sarries makes Mark McCall’s boys the irresistible object. The reigning English and European champions have leaked a miserly 28 tries in 22 Premiership fixtures this terms while their defence has been breached only nine times in eight outings in this season’s Champions Cup campaign.
Call it a cliché but Saturday’s Murrayfield reckoning really does look like being a classic clash between French flair and English yeomanry.
Clermont perhaps have more to prove.
The Vulcans are the perennial plucky runners-up of both French and European rugby. Since 2000 the club has conspired to lose two European Cup and five Top 14 finals.
Another fall at the final hurdle this weekend would make them only the second club after Leicester Tigers to be beaten in three Champions Cup finals.
In contrast, Saracens have developed into a winning machine under MccCall. The north Londoners have wrapped up a hat-trick of Premiership crowns since 2011 and are as ruthless as they are unrelentingly physical.
That priceless ability to get over the line when it really matters sees Sarries installed as clear favourites at 21/50 while Clermont are 37/20 to finally break their final hoodoo and lift the trophy for the first time. A draw and the drama of extra time for only the third time in the tournament’s history is 22/1.
Murrayfield’s two previous European Cup finals saw Toulouse in 2005 and Leinster four years later crowned champions with a winning margin of less than seven points. Both finalists this weekend are 9/10 to buck that trend and triumph by eight points or more.
The opening 40 minutes in Edinburgh could prove pivotal.
Saracens are yet to concede a try in the first half of a European assignment this season while no-one has scored more tries than Clermont (16) in the first period. However, something has to give in what is the third Anglo-French final in the last four years.
Sarries are 17/25 to score the first try of the game while the Vulcans are 7/6 to make the first five-point breakthrough. A repeat of last year’s final, which featured no tries at all, is rated 30/1.
The last time the European Cup final witnessed a drop goal was three years ago when Jonny Wilkinson slotted one between the sticks in Toulon’s 23-6 victory over Saracens in Cardiff.
Clermont are 60/1 to start the scoring this weekend in similar style while Sarries are 50/1 to open their account with a drop.
For more Champions Cup odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s rugby betting.
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