An event supposedly reserved for champions could soon find room for a team from the depths of the English Premiership but none for the champs. Sarries may be the team neutrals love to hate but even they will have a grudging respect for their winning mentality.
Gareth Steenson, a late sub yesterday as Exeter clinched their first semi-final, retires next month at 36, one of very few in the professional era to rattle up 3,000 points without being capped.
Head coach Dan McFarland deserves credit for telling it as it was. He could have highlighted the disruption caused by Billy Burns’ early loss but went straight to the point, telling BTSport: “We got punished and we deserved it. In some parts of the game, we weren’t at the races.”
In the last minute of the worst game of the weekend, Toulon’s Challenge Cup bore against Scarlets, Andrew Brace warned the French pack as they manned the barricades: ‘Discipline.’ At that point, Sergio Parisse might have been tempted into a riposte, pointing out the irony of the advice.
Toulon conceded 10 penalties, Scarlets almost twice as many without the faintest trace of a yellow card. And that included allowing Scarlets to get away with a deliberate knock-on.
Brace did not appear to attempt any French throughout the match, neither did former Munster scrum-half Frank Murphy in his handling of Bordeaux’s home Challenge Cup win over Edinburgh.
Saracens v Exeter for the Champions’ Cup. If they win the first all Anglo-French semi-finals, the holders will meet the Premiership leaders who believe that Sarries’ salary-cap shenanigans robbed them of English titles on each of the last two seasons.