Saracens skipper Brad Barritt believes the agony of losing a European final two years ago “galvanised” his team’s successful bid for Champions Cup glory in Lyon.
Barritt and company ended English rugby’s nine-year wait to lift a European title that had been the exclusive property of Irish and French teams since Lawrence Dallaglio’s Wasps triumphed at Twickenham by beating Leicester in 2007.
And few could question Saracens’ place at the European summit after stand-off Owen Farrell, pictured, kicked seven penalties to underpin an emphatic 21-9 success against Parisians Racing 92.
“The spirit of this side is the foundation on which everything is built,” England centre Barritt said.
“It is a culture that has been bred over the past six years, and there was a truly a belief coming into this game that this was going to be our year. We clearly built up a six-year run, slowly improving year on year.
“We came up short against Toulon two years ago, and that experience galvanised us. We speak metaphorically about pounding the rock, and thankfully, the rock broke on Saturday.”
Saracens dominated the final at Grand Stade de Lyon, and their victory meant they became the first team in European Cup rugby’s 21-year history to win all nine matches – six pool games and three knockout fixtures – during one season.
Barritt added: “With a team like Racing, a minute switching off can result in a try. It’s about being composed, switching in and out of aggression, being physical when we can, but then taking off the pressure when we could.
“I am just hugely pleased that the team stood up, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this squad. It was an unbelievable feeling getting my hands on the trophy.
“Words can’t really express how you feel. To do it with your mates, and guys you consider to be your best friends, is truly an unbelievable feeling.
“We knew we had a point to prove, and that was to do it on the big stage on the day when it mattered. It is something we have truly been dreaming of, and now it has come true.”
Saracens now have their sights firmly set on a possible major trophy double that has not been achieved in English rugby for 12 years.
Wasps were also the last English team to complete a domestic and European double, but the fact that was in 2004 underlines its acute degree of difficulty. Saracens host Aviva Premiership play-off rivals Leicester next Saturday, and if they win, it will be a Twickenham appointment with Exeter or Wasps on 28 May when England’s champions will be decided.
Farrell said: “Everyone wants to finish the season off well. We have half done it, but we still have got two games to go.
“It was a special day. It is a European final that we have won, and to come out as the champions is very special. Hopefully, there are more of these days to come.”
And Saracens rugby director Mark McCall said: “This means an awful lot.
“I am personally thrilled for the playing group, but also the staff and people like (Saracens chairman) Nigel Wray, who has invested 20 years of his heart and soul into this.
“What we said in the week was that we truly believe if we are humble enough and hungry enough, which I know we are, there are more good days ahead for us.”