Alex Goode: Saracens’ title success driven by last year’s final disappointment
Alex Goode admits Saracens’ Gallagher Premiership title success was driven by the regret of “not throwing a punch” during last year’s meek Twickenham final defeat.
Swashbuckling Sarries produced a high-tempo display to overcome spirited Sale 35-25 and make amends for their limp, last-gasp loss to Leicester at the same stage in 2022.
Saturday afternoon’s enthralling climax to the campaign was a milestone moment for Mark McCall’s men as they clinched silverware for the first time since being relegated for salary cap breaches three years ago.
Long-serving full-back Goode says the six-time champions were determined to avoid suffering frustration for a second successive season, having failed to score a try in a forgettable 15-12 reverse against the Tigers.
“The feeling of winning drives a lot of people,” said the former England international. “I love it. It’s really special.
“It was really disappointing for us last year with what happened. We set out in pre-season to make sure that we didn’t get that feeling again, not throwing a punch in a big game.
“We didn’t give the best account of ourselves and (this year) it was a really great example of doing what we’ve done all year and keep playing and keep going.
“We saw some of the best rugby we’ve played all year.
“There was some brilliant defence at the end but before that it was the courage and bravery to keep playing.”
Saracens ended a fragmented first half disrupted by a Just Stop Oil protest and injuries to Jamie George and Sean Maitland 20-13 ahead following a penalty try and a Max Malins score.
Sale hit back to briefly lead 25-23 after Tom Roebuck and Bevan Rodd added to Akker van der Merwe’s first-half try before Elliot Daly and Ivan van Zyl crossed to see Sarries home on a scorching afternoon in south-west London.
Goode praised the influence of Saracens and England captain Owen Farrell, who kicked 13 points en route to being named man of the match.
“He’s playing unbelievably well but he’s always been a huge big-match player,” said Goode. “How many finals has he got man of the match?
“He’s a competitor and it’s a joy to play with him when you know he’s going to stand up and be counted and take the fight to them.”
Underdogs Sale threatened to spring a surprise in only the club’s second Premiership final after finishing the regular season five points behind their table-topping opponents.
While the Sharks were unable to emulate the feat of the club’s victorious 2006 side, they produced an encouraging performance in the capital containing a standout display from Manu Tuilagi.
Director of rugby Alex Sanderson believes England centre Tuilagi is peaking at the right time moving towards this autumn’s World Cup in France.
“Manu’s playing his best rugby,” said Sanderson. “He’s at his most robust.
“We said this was the aim two-and-a-half years ago for him to be playing his best rugby going into the World Cup and we’ve achieved that.
“But he is just one of 22, 23 players that I’m immensely proud of.”
Sale captain Jono Ross, who played his last match before retirement, believes the club have exciting times ahead.
“I think it’s the start of an era,” said the South African back-rower.
“I don’t see why this team can’t be here fighting for titles year in, year out.
“There’s a lot of youth in this group and sometimes youth is ignorance. They all took it in their stride, very relaxed before the game, no-one seemed overawed. I think this team will grow.”