Published: Thu, May 16, 2019
Sport | By Wilson Duncan

European Champions Cup: Alex Goode named European Player of the Year

European Champions Cup: Alex Goode named European Player of the Year

Saracens and England number 8 Billy Vunipola was booed as he arrived at St James' Park for the Champions Cup final against Leinster on May 12, as he continued to feel the heat for his defense of comments made by controversial rugby star Israel Folau.

Having also lost Joey Carbery and Jordi Murphy to rival provinces last summer, along with the retirement of captain Isa Nacewa, Cullen said Leinster will continue to focus on bringing players through their youth system, rather than recruit from outside. "We'll just take lots of learnings from it, and I think we'll bounce back".

A try by Scotland winger Sean Maitland and a conversion and penalty by England fly-half Owen Farrell drew the Londoners level by half-time and proved the springboard for their third Champions Cup crown in four years.

Unsurprisingly, Saracens coach Mark McCall, now a three-time European victor and the competition's most successful Irish coach, agreed that the revival before half-time was crucial.

"It was nearly like the Maro yellow card released us and allowed us to play our game, and it's just pleasing when you can have a reaction", Saracens skipper Barritt said.

'I can't speak highly enough of the leaders around me.

"But more importantly, the way the team responded to those key messages, because a message is only as good as the guys who follow it, and they were phenomenal".

McCall's men won every Champions Cup match this season to dethrone Leinster and Goode is hungry for a repeat of a European and Premiership double they achieved three years ago.

Reflecting on Leinster's first defeat in a European final, head coach Leo Cullen said: "Everyone is going to talk about the periods either side of half-time because that was when Saracens scored some points". The size of some of their players. they're a big, big hard team with lots of quality. "Even though we weren't missing tackles, but they kept pressing us back and steamrolled us at times".

"The first one (European Cup win) felt magical, and this one feels good because we were against a really high-class team today and we were 10-0 down, we were down to 14 men and we had to find a way to come back into the game, and we did". They did that really well, strangled us in the last 30 minutes when they had the lead. You don't get to a final if you're not near the top.

"It was a ferocious match, we never backed down, but Saracens did what they do best", he said.

"We're gutted now but we just need to dust ourselves off".

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