ERCC: Clermont v Saracens Preview

Clermont and Saracens will square off for the second time in the space of seven days this coming Sunday.

Hold on to your seats, folks, this Sunday’s Pool 2 epic promises to be one of the most spellbinding rugby fixtures we’re likely to get in quite some time. On Monday night, Saracens – a side which hadn’t lost in Europe for over two-consecutive years – were completely torn apart by Clermont at Allianz Park. That 14-46 loss was perhaps one of the most astounding results in the tournament’s history, and has made this weekend’s rematch at the Stade Marcel-Michelin one of the most hotly anticipated encounters of the European calendar.


Clermont v Saracens | Sunday 17 December | Stade Marcel-Michelin | 17:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Clermont 4/10 | Draw 25/1 | Saracens 18/10

*Please note that these are forecast odds

Clermont
While the likes of the ever-present Morgan Parra, Damian Penaud and S├ębastien Vahaamahina were right at the forefront of Clermont’s famous win on Monday, it was Alivereti Raka who stole the show. The 25-year-old Fijian native was in freakish form on his way to scoring a hat-trick inside the opening 25-minutes, before running over 70-odd meters to set up Flip van der Merwe for arguably the try of the season. It isn’t too long now before Raka qualifies to represent France, and the French selectors must be drooling at the prospect of selecting a player who may prove to be their side’s answer to a Waisake Naholo or a Julian Savea.

Raka will again want to prove his mettle in the rematch scheduled for this weekend but, that said, Mark McCall and his senior players would not have taken their most recent defensive frailties lightly, and Raka shouldn’t count on 'Sarries' missing as many tackles as they did on Monday (a whopping 38). Despite the approaching arrival of Christmas, the visitors may not be in too giving a mood this Sunday, and Raka and his teammates will have a much harder time finding holes in the opposition defence. They may just approach the opening exchanges of this one in a more conservative manner before unleashing the beast.

Saracens
Boy, oh boy, what is going on at Saracens? Monday night’s thrashing was the team’s sixth-loss in succession, with the “greatest club side in history” on the brink of a total mid-season collapse. This Sunday’s game at the Stade Michelin may prove to be the most important in their recent history, with the two-time European champions simply having to get a result. Everybody knows of their star-quality, and they will invariably bounce back sooner or later but, quite frankly, it must be sooner. Their very season depends on it.

One of the most astonishing aspects of Sarries’ rotten run has been their ineptitude without ball in hand. Clermont seemed to run over their defenders at will on Monday, and they cannot afford to give them a sniff at home; they will be punished. Losing captain Brad Barrett to injury early on didn’t help their cause, but McCall has offered zero excuses and has insisted his senior players need to stand up and make their mark. Although I did say something similar this last week, I really do believe that this is the match in which 'Sarries' will turn their season around. They have far too much character to sink to yet another embarrassing defeat, and should come out of the blocks like a wounded buffalo!

Verdict: Saracens 18/10
I spent a long time contemplating this weekend’s winner but, ultimately, I believe Saracens will stand up and deliver a performance that is befitting of their ilk. It is sure to be one of the games of the season, with so much riding on it, and it may very well come down to the final few minutes.


Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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