FORMER Thornbury Bronco and Castle School student Billy Vunipola admits second time round was much harder for Saracens as the club celebrated winning back-to-back European titles.

The Londoners retained the European Champions Cup they claimed for the first time last year by beating Clermont Auvergne 28-17 at Murrayfield on Saturday.

Vunipola and his brother, Mako, played a big part in the victory and also in a Saracens’ season which some thought would see them sink away.

They are hoping to land the double this season when it continues this weekend at Sandy Park against Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership play-off semi-final with the winners playing either Wasps or Leicester Tigers at Twickenham.

Last Saturday, though, was another era-defining triumph for Sarries.

Billy confessed this year’s European triumph was a greater test of Sarries’ resolve than last year’s win.

The number eight, who learnt his trade at Thornbury RFC and Castle School as a teenager, said: “It’s strange because I never thought we’d be here again. But it’s an amazing feeling.

“As a team we’re pretty out there and we want to win next week and hopefully push on to the Premiership final.

“We don’t want to say we’re the best team blah blah blah, then miss out this week.

“This year has been a bit unorthodox with the way we’ve done things, with boys getting injured and everybody writing us off.

“But the boys showed fight and determination to get back here again (Euro final) and then push it over the line.

“Our coach Mark McCall said to us at the start of the season that the potential was there for us to be better than last year, it’s just whether we were willing to fight for it.

“It just shows how hungry we are because it was tougher this year. At certain times, we didn’t have our whole team but we dealt with it amazingly well and that’s testament to the group we have.

“It’s just such a great thing to be a part of. I’m just happy to be involved with such an amazing team.

“We’ll enjoy this one for a couple of days but we have a massive game next week and we need to recover, focus, then get back into it.”

The Vunipola brothers will play for the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand next month.