Clermont put Saracens on the rack

Pirate IRWIN
Clermont's wing Alivereti Raka (R) breaks through a tackle to score the opening try on December 11, 2017

Alivereti Raka scored a hat-trick of tries as French champions Clermont ran defending two-time European titleholders Saracens ragged in a 46-14 hammering on Monday -- the most points they have conceded in European competition.

The 25-year-old Fijian winger's stunning all-round display -- a superb solo run also set up Flip van der Merwe for a try -- was the perfect riposte to their defeat by Saracens in the final last season and Clermont's anger at having the match called off on Sunday without the French side being consulted.

Clermont's achievement was put in perspective by being the first team to beat Saracens at their home ground in European competition and the first to beat the champions in Europe in two-and-a-half years.

It was also the first time in 14 years that Saracens had lost six successive matches, following three league defeats and two more in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

Saracens defeat also rounded off a terrible weekend for English clubs with all seven beaten in their European Champions Cup clashes.

Victory saw Clermont -- who are struggling in the Top 14 this term, lying ninth in the table -- leapfrog Saracens to top their pool by four points.

They could make life even more difficult for the English side if they beat them in France this coming weekend with Welsh region Ospreys breathing down the champions' necks, just two points behind Saracens.

Only the three best runners-up qualify for the knock-out rounds alongside the five pool winners.

- Sobering defeat -

"I didn't see that coming," a shell-shocked Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BT Sport.

"It has been a sobering day for us. We have been well beaten by a much better team."

Clermont fullback Scott Spedding admitted the delay had not been ideal for such a big match.

"This is a massive win, though, in bad conditions," the 31-year-old South Africa-born France international said.

"However, we know Saracens will bounce back from this."

Raka destroyed Saracens in the first half, notching his hat-trick within 25 minutes through a mixture of electric pace and missed tackles by the likes of the normally reliable hooker Jamie George.

At that stage the visitors led 21-0.

Saracens -- who lost defensive linchpin Brad Barritt in the early minutes -- had a brief glimmer of hope when Nigel Owens awarded them a penalty try and sin-binned Fritz Lee in the 28th minute.

However, Clermont pulled further away as the metronomic Morga Parra landed a penalty for 24-7 and to add insult to injury, Clermont turned the ball over with seconds ticking away in the first-half and Saracens metres from their line.

Any hopes of an astonishing comeback ended inside six minutes of the second-half as Raka ran from inside his own territory, beating several tackles before unselfishly offloading to Van der Merwe to score -- Parra converted for 31-7.

Further tries followed including one from Wesley Fofana, warming the doughty Clermont souls who had extended their stay and braved the freezing conditions.