They may be relegated to the English Championship next season, but they are far froma team lacking magic or edging towards a decline.
Now offering an added x-factor, there is a desire to throw everything launched at them back in people’s faces.
The Premiership and European champions were demoted from the top tier of domestic rugby and fined 5.36 million back in January following repeated salary cap breaches.
Cast as villains and wiped fromChampions Cup action until late 2022,Saracens were determined to write one final chapter in the story of a highly successful squad.
Written off by many this season,they were driven to show their success, which yielded four domestic cups and three European titles, was down to attitude and not cheating.
Known for their Wolfpack mentality, a team forged by their bonding off the field as much as on it, the North London-outfithave built an ‘us against the world’ mindset.
With the odds stacked against themin last SaturdaysChampions Cup quarter-final,Mark McCall’smen provided European rivals a savage reminder of their abilities.
Theirepic 25-17 win over Leinster, who were coming into the fixture on the back of a 25-match unbeaten run, ranks alongside their greatest European displays.
The victory in Dublin was built on forward domination, controlling the collisions and the breakdown.
Theymade over 100 more tackles than Leinster (187 to 82) and were restricted to just 37-per-cent possession, but stayed composed, committed and disciplinedon both sides of the ball.
But the pressure applied earned 15 penalties, seven at scrum time thanks to their immense front row, in particular Vincent Koch, with six convertedinto points.
With Alex Goode orchestrating proceedings from fly-half, one would nearly forget talisman Owen Farrell was missing through a five-match suspension.
Looking through the team sheet from Saturday, theSt. Alban’s sidewere without 10 players from last season as the clubunderwent severe cost-cutting measures to preparefor a year in the Championship.
Ben Earl, Max Mallins, Jack Singleton, Nick Tompkins, Alex Lozowski and Nick Isiekwe were forced to go out on loanforthe 2020-21 campaign.
While others like Ben Spencer, Matt Gallagher,Will Skelton, Rhys Carre, Liam Williams, Joe Gray, Titi Lamositele and George Kruisleft the club permanently.
The exploits in Dublin don’t stop here, though. The ultimate rebuttal now comes in the form of a fourth Champions Cup trophy.
A semi-final awaits this weekend against a strong Racing 92 side. The Parisiens boast phenomenal power across the park, illustrated by their superb triumphat Clermont.
Racing’s last encounter with Saracens came in the 2016 Champions Cup final when the English side secured the first of their three European trophies.
It’ll be another gruelling test, but in the Vunipola brothers, Jamie George, Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje and Michael Rhodes to name a few, Sarriesoffer plenty of guile and creativity to combat any force.
You have to respect Saracens for what they’ve been able to do. They gave Leinster a physical andmental battering in Dublin, one of the toughest things to do in rugby.
Of course, rules have been broken in recent years and you can understand the anger fromother English clubs. But while punishments have been received, high praise is due for their class on the pitch.
Whether their legacy is diminished or not, the spirit, discipline and resilience demonstratedagainst Leinster last weekend reminded people of their capabilities.
No matter the personnel, the template and culture on show at Aviva Stadium was a powerful and positive one.
Looking ahead to the semis, it is difficult to know whether Saracens will rise to the occasion again, another high step to climb on their questto lift a fourth European title.
The task will be tougher in Paris but if this proves to bethe end of their European road for now, we have to appreciate their brilliance and credit what they’ve achieved.
A new era awaits next season, more attention will fall their way, but they must continue to look ahead and celebrate past achievements while relishing future goals.
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