European Champions Cup: We gave 100 per cent, says Alex Goode
England full-back reflects on Saracens' 13-9 semi-final defeat at Clermont Auvergne as attention turns to Aviva Premiership run-in
Alex Goode believes Saracens gave everything in their hard-fought 13-9 European Champions Cup defeat to Clermont Auvergne in Saint-Étienne.
Mark McCall’s side pushed the French club all the way, but were undone early in the second half by a piece of magic from Brock James for French centre Wesley Fofana to score the only try of the game.
The character of the squad shone through, we gave 100 per cent, and this won’t detract from our season
Alex Goode on Saracens’ semi-final defeat
While Saracens cruised to victory against the same opposition in a semi-final at Twickenham last season, it was a more closely-fought – but equally enthralling – contest in front of a packed Stade Geoffrey-Guichard.
Defeat means the English club won’t have a chance to avenge last year’s final defeat to Toulon should the big-spending French club defeat Leinster on Sunday afternoon in Marseille, but Goode insists that the performance will hold them in good stead for the remainder of the Aviva Premiership season.
“We stopped them from playing, and it was a great chance for us, but the character of the squad shone through, we gave 100 per cent, and this won’t detract from our season,” Goode said.
“We defended very well and were pleased with our first half.
“They stopped playing a bit in the second half, and we should have capitalised a bit more on that, but we could not get on the front foot and move them around more.”
McCall saw his side’s only points come through the boot of Charlie Hodgson, who landed a penalty and drop-goal, and replacement Owen Farrell, who also landed a penalty.
Despite it not being enough to see them through to another final, the Ulsterman lavished praise on his players for stifling Clermont’s attacking threat, which had ripped through Northampton Saints 37-5 at the quarter-final stage, but was left to rue a number of errors.
And the director of rugby also talked up his forward pack, which included English quintet Jamie George, George Kruis, Maro Itoje, and Billy and Mako Vunipola.
“I thought the effort and many, many aspects of the performance were phenomenal,” he said.
“We made Clermont play a game that they didn’t really want to play.
“The game was on a knife-edge all the way through.
“We made maybe a few too many errors at crucial times, but in terms of the big things that we judge ourselves on, we were magnificent.
“In the starting pack, there were five players who were 24 and under, which is unbelievably young for a competition like this, but all of them are ready. They showed that today.
“They are five young English players, and hopefully they are going to be the mainstay of our club for years to come.
“The energy of the team and how we hunted them down, it was just one of those big titanic games.
“That young pack of forwards is going to get better and better after experiences like this.”