The 13 days that have put Saracens back ‘in the mix’

Mark McCall praised his side for restoring the “Saracens fundamentals” following a 40-22 victory over Exeter Chiefs which lifted the champions into the top four.

Sarries have responded to a heavy defeat in Bordeaux with back-to-back victories, the latest of which featured two tries from James Hadfield and 15 points from the boot of Racing 92-bound Owen Farrell.

The Gallagher Premiership now takes an eight-week break for the Guinness Six Nations, but McCall’s side are well-placed for a play-off push when action resumes in late March.

“The last 13 days have been the most enjoyable of the season,” he said.

“It got a little bit better in the Lyon game and a lot better here, we were great in the last 25 minutes. It tells me there’s something good in the room.

“We’ve got a good group of players and staff, and when things got difficult we pulled together and have come out the other side for now.

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“We’ve gone back to some Saracens fundamentals on and off the field. We’ve had a really good balance in the last 13 days of a bit of play and some hard work, and that’s paid off.

“We’re in the mix now. It feels like there’s going to be a sprint to the line.

“There are eight or nine teams that can qualify for the top four and, hopefully, we can build on what we’ve done in the last two weeks.”

Hadfield and Ivan van Zyl crossed in the first half for Saracens, with Olly Woodburn and Greg Visilau responding as the sides went into the break level at 15-15.

Juan Martin Gonzalez pounced on a Josh Hodge error to put the hosts back in front but the Chiefs full-back quickly atoned by launching the counter-attack which led to a stunning try finished by Rusi Tuima.

Match Summary

It was all Sarries from thereon in, though, as Farrell’s boot, along with tries from Hadfield and Theo McFarland, secured a bonus-point win.

Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter said: “In a lot of ways, it’s our best performance for a couple of years here.

“We were in the game but ultimately we made enough individual errors to deserve to lose the game.

“Conceding straight after half-time is such a sucker blow and it was a bit of comedy of errors to concede a try the way we did.

“We did well to fight back from that, but the way that try got scored started to repeat itself. Then Saracens can control their way into getting a decent lead.

“There was a big chunk of the game where we were a try away from two bonus points. That would have been a great return but we got a bit panicky and that multiplied the pressure on us.”


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