No Heineken Cup success for Mark McCall or Saracens

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall (left) and technical director Brendan Venter
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall (left) and technical director Brendan Venter

Ulsterman, Mark McCall, was back in a European Cup Final on Saturday, but unlike the success he enjoyed with Ulster in 1999, he watched Saracens torn apart by classy French outfit Toulon in Cardiff.

Current director of rugby at Saracens, McCall, was a member of the Ulster squad which won the European Cup in 1999 - although injury had robbed him of playing in the Dublin final when the Irish Province completed a fairytale dream in defeated Colomiers.

McCall, who had a spell of coaching at Ulster and then Castres before joining Saracens, twice plotted the downfall of his former club by defeating them in back-to-back quarter-finals.

Last year Saracens lost to Toulon in the semi-finals and on Saturday they could not deny the French kingpins becoming the true Kings of Europe as they successfull defended the Heineken Cup with a comfortable 23-6 success.

Toulon will now face Castres in the Top 14 French Championship final while Saracens take on Northampton Saints, winners of the Amlin Challenge Cup on Friday night, in the final of the Aviva Premiership next weekend.

It was England World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson who signed off in style from the United Kingdom in his penultimate game before retirement.

The Toulon captain and fly-half kicked a drop-goal, two penalties and two conversions of the tries scored by centre Matt Giteau and flanker Juan Smith to sink Saracens at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff.

Wilkinson, who celebrates his 35th birthday on Sunday, will retire following next weekend’s final against Castres in Paris.

And he will bow out of the game as a double Heineken Cup winner as Toulon emulated Leicester and Leinster in being crowned European champions for a second successive season.

Under-par Saracens could only manage two Owen Farrell penalties in reply as Toulon eased towards winning the 19th and final Heineken Cup final before it is succeeded by the European Rugby Champions Cup next term.

Wilkinson admitted helping Toulon to their second successive Heineken Cup triumph was “something I’ll remember forever”.

The former Newcastle fly-half admitted the experience in Cardiff is one of his greatest in his career.

“It’s a hell of a feeling. I can’t say enough just how I proud I am to be a part of this team, to have been able to play in this competition and to be able to play against teams like that as well,” Wilkinson, who will end his career following Toulon’s Top 14 against Castres next Saturday, told Sky Sports 2.

“Our season’s got one more week left but this is something I’ll remember forever.

“There’s a lot of relief, a lot of excitement, a lot of sheer adulation. At the moment, it’s just trying to take it all in.

“It’s a privilege to have been part of that game, to have been part of this final and to have won it - I couldn’t have asked for more.”

Steffon Armitage was awarded man of the match for his stellar performance that included four turnovers, although, like Wilkinson, the 28-year-old was quick to hail his team-mates.

“All the guys showed a lot of heart and it just shows that work-rate and playing for your team-mates helps a lot. All the boys today were superb, they never gave up and it was good to come away with a win,” he said.

“We always knew there was a good chance they might come back so we just had to keep pushing on from there and that’s what the boys did. We worked really hard in training all week and it paid off.”