By Nik Simon For The Mail On Sunday
Published: 18:35 BST, 19 September 2020 | Updated: 23:26 BST, 19 September 2020
This was Dublin’s day of defiance. The day when Saracens’ weakened, written-off and relegated side upset the odds to mark one of their finest hours.
The script had already been written for the team’s ‘last dance’. They were expected to be booted out of the party, but instead they will waltz into the Champions Cup semi-finals with one eye on a farewell trophy. The days of the Saracens dynasty may be numbered, but they are not over.
All of their adversity was channelled into an Aviva Stadium siege, ending Leinster’s 16-month unbeaten run. The reactions on the final whistle told the story. Mark McCall made a B-line for his departing skipper, Brad Barritt, and the pair shared a long embrace on the sideline.
Saracens' Alex Goode scores his side's first try during the European win over Leinster
‘It was the prospect of having another week together,’ said Barritt. ‘We know after this season there will be a slightly different looking squad and we owed it to ourselves to have a big game. We’ve showed a huge amount of character playing in games that don’t mean anything. Today was about fighting for something tangible. We owed it to ourselves to represent the Saracens badge and I couldn’t be more proud of my team.’
A five-week ban for talisman Owen Farrell was among Saracens’ challenges. However, Alex Goode stepped into his jersey and scored 19 points. It was not just Farrell in absentia. Saracens’ squad was sheared during the lockdown, with players jumping ship or being sent out on loan. They no longer have an international bench to fall back on in the closing stages, so the emphasis here was on a fast start.
Alex Lewington chased hard on the kick off to force a knock on. The tone was set. Every member of the Saracens staff cheered. Elliot Daly ran across the pitch to congratulate him. From thereon in, very small victory was celebrated as a triumph. This was Saracens against the world. It is no secret that Johnny Sexton is the heartbeat of Leinster’s