Brad Barritt has hailed Saracens’ leaders and the “phenomenal” response by his team that saw them crowned European champions for a third time in four seasons.
Saracens were in trouble at St James’ Park, trailing Leinster 10-0 just before half-time, with England star Maro Itoje sin-binned and props Mako Vunipola and Titi Lamositele off injured.
But they regrouped spectacularly, drawing level by half-time of a memorable Heineken Champions Cup final and then dominating the second period to claim a 20-10 victory that made them England’s most successful club in the competition’s history.
The fightback owed everything to Saracens’ resilience and delivery under pressure as they emphatically denied Leinster a record fifth European title.
“It was almost 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.”
Barritt became only the second captain after current Leinster head coach Leo Cullen to lift European club rugby’s showpiece trophy three times, taking him past Martin Johnson, Lawrence Dallaglio, Jonny Wilkinson and Fabien Pelous.
The former England centre was also named man-of-the-match, and he earned a glowing tribute from Saracens rugby director Mark McCall.
“I’m absolutely chuffed that Brad was made the man-of-the-match, because he deserved it. Sometimes, players like Brad don’t get the headlines they deserve,” McCall said.
“He is a magnificent captain for our club. In games like these games, he’s as tough as they come, and the way he defended, the way he set targets was inspirational.”
Tries by Sean Maitland and Billy Vunipola underpinned Saracens’ victory, which was a ninth successive win in this season’s competition, having gone through their group unbeaten before the knockout phase.
Vunipola, who was booed most times he touched the ball during his team’s Champions Cup semi-final victory over Munster, again received jeers.
He was handed formal warnings from his club and the Rugby Football Union last month after he posted on social media that “man was made for woman to procreate that was the goal no?” and also liked a social media post from Australian player Israel Folau that stated “hell awaits” for homosexuals.
But he was at his brilliant best in the final, claiming the late touchdown that sealed an outstanding success.
Attention will now turn to a possible European and domestic double – Saracens last achieved one three years ago – with the Gallagher Premiership play-offs looming in two weeks’ time.
“Our players took control at half-time, if I am honest,” McCall added. “They were very clear on what we needed to do just a little bit better.
“We weren’t miles off, we just felt there was a little bit more in us in attack, a little bit more in us defensively, and it was Brad and Owen (Farrell) who said that and asked for a little bit more.
“We played some really good rugby in the second half, and I am just proud of the way the players have handled everything, really.”