The Champions and Challenge Cup finals are in the books for another year and the trophies have been engraved with the names ‘Saracens’ and ‘Stade Francais’. Here’s what Lee Calvert took away from the big finals weekend.
1. Saracens make the majestic mundane. In the film Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer there is a scene where Henry sits completely emotionless watching a video of the dismembering he has wrought on one of his victims. I imagine that’s what Sarries video review sessions are like, such is the mundane manner in which they majestically roll over everything that is put in front of them. For large swathes of the European Champions Cup final the score was relatively close, yet anyone watching the Saracens performance knew from about twenty seconds in that there would be only one winner. Even when Clermont closed the gap to a tiny margin with little time to go, the sense among Sarries players of dispassionate inevitability of victory never wavered. You can’t help but admire it.
2. The threat of ceasing to exist is great motivation. For the past few years Stade Francais have by and large been an inexplicable mess. Most of this season was the same right up until the point they were told that their club would no longer exist due to the proposed but ultimately doomed merger with Racing Metro. Since then, they have lost only one match (a difficult away fixture at Montpellier) and rumbled all the way to winning the European Challenge Cup.
3. If only we could all exude the same not-giving-a-shit vibe in our workplaces as Morgan Parra. The little Clermont nine simply oozes insouciant class as he somehow simultaneously zips and meanders around the park, hardly ever looking out of breath, as if everything that befalls him or his team gives no cause for concern. Most of us desperately don’t want to appear flustered at work yet fail miserably to achieve this by 10am on Monday morning. Parra lived it the final of the biggest game in domestic northern hemisphere rugby like some kind of walking shoulder shrug.
4. Scott Spedding ruins everything. The France international fullback’s performance on Saturday was a perfect vignette of his entire career – some impressive muscular runs followed by a total balls-up when asked to do anything requiring technical ability and composure. Perfectly demonstrated by his inability to simply pick a ball up off the floor without dropping it and handing the match to his team’s opponents.
5. Maro Itoje sounds like a 12-year-old prefect. The Saracens man has been nothing short of a revelation since he burst onto the scene a couple of years age – a dominant, athletic presence with plenty of mongrel who is touted as a Future England Captain™. His motivational speeches must be something to behold, however, as in his post-victory interview it was revealed just how much he sounds like a swot showing parents around a school open evening.