GEORGE KRUIS, Alex Goode and conversions by Owen Farrell helped Saracens defend their crown
CHRIS ASHTON was crowned the try king of Europe as he fired Saracens to a Champions Cup double.
England mis-fit Ashton nailed his record-breaking 37th Euro score at Murrayfield to rock France’s classiest club side Clermont.
Celebrating with his iconic and trademark ‘Ash the Splash’ the 30-year-old winger will be sorely missed at Allianz Park when he joins Toulon in the summer.
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Love him or hate him, cross-code star Ashton has been one of the best backs to have graced the turf in the holy grail of European competition.
This dazzling Saracens side driven by the explosive and brilliant Billy Vunipola can now consider themselves true greats like Martin Johnson’s immense Leicester Tigers double winners.
So too Brian O’Driscoll’s Leinster and Jonny Wilkinson’s Toulon – but Clermont played their part and twice clawed their way back top within a point.
But now just two Premiership games stand between Mark McCall’s side and the domestic and European double.
Emotional Ashton said: “To become top try-scorer is just the icing on the cake. It’s pretty hard to it that into words right now.
“We’ve worked so hard for the past five or six years. It’s such a pleasure to be with this group. It’s so hard to be in these finals so to win two is a pleasure.”
Ashton was the beauty to Vunipola’s grunt as the England no.8 played one of the best games of his career in another sensational season.
The 20 stone forward will be unleashed against Exeter Chiefs on Saturday as the men in black look to retain their Premiership title and do the double double.
Departing Ashton will be fired by emotion again and he almost broke the deadlock inside 60 seconds as he sliced open Clermont with a trademark deadly run – only for fellow English exile Nick Abendanon to stop him.
A year on from seeing off Dan Carter’s Racing 92 in Lyon it was Clermont who were steamrolled by the Saracens juggernaut in Edinburgh.
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Battered and bruised Saracens skipper and centre Brad Barritt found himself in the wars yet again.
Barritt has joked has had 1,000 stitches in his face – now he’s due for even more after another clash.
The former England international said: “Thank god I am married, my wife will complain again,. It is a special feeling to be part of this group – it is a special family.”
Lions tourist George Kruis bashed a hole from close-range to double the score and Owen Farrell made no mistake in adding the extras after missing his first shot.
Saracens amazingly conceded their FIRST try of the opening minutes of Champions Cup action when Remi Lamerat punched a hole through midfield and Morgan Parra converted.
Sarries looked to be pulling clear and Owen Farrell added three points with the boot.
Then old Bath boy Nick Abendanon scored one of the classic Euro tries running 40metres that Camille Lopez converted to bring it back to a one-point ball game at 15-14.
Another Farrell three stretched it only for Parra to close the door again.
The Sarries scrum started to creek. Calls started to go against them as they camped out in the Clermont 22.
Still they managed to find a way to win it, just like they always do.
Vunipola upped his game from world-class to out of this world and as he smashed the Yellow Army they started to crack and couldn’t compete.
England ace and favourite to be crowned Euro player-of-the-year Farrell converted Alex Goode’s nerve steadying try.
It was a poor reaction from the restart that gifted Lopez a penalty and when he missed that the last chance saloon was slammed shut.
Farrell then blew Clermont out of town with the final nail in his 13-point haul.
Boring boring Sarries – sing their rivals – this was far from boring and yet another master-class from a developing outfit.
Clermont have the best fans in Europe, but once again – their team is second best to one of the stand-out teams in a generation.