Director of rugby Mark McCall wants the Heineken Cup win over Munster to give Saracens greater self-belief

Picture: Action Images

Picture: Action Images

First published in Sport

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hopes the 19-13 victory over Munster in the Heineken Cup will prove to be a "coming of age performance" as his team look to stamp their mark on the competition.

The Men in Black are making their seventh appearance in Europe's premier tournament but have only ever made the knockout stages twice - the semi-finals in 2008 and the quarter-finals last year.

McCall though hopes that beating Munster, who themselves have won the competition twice (in 2006 and 2008) and made the final four times, will give Saracens greater self-belief.

"Hopefully it was a bit of a coming of age performance for us because that's a tough European contest," McCall said.

"Playing against someone like Ronan O'Gara you could see his class in the last 25 minutes of the match - he kept putting the ball back into our 22 and we then had to be very composed and controlled in our exits during that period of time.

"We had a couple of lineouts near our own line which were outstanding and we got back to the halfway line and relieved the pressure really well."

The Sarries boss though refused to consider qualification as a done-deal, with the group still wide open.

Saracens currently lead Racing by two points, and Munster by three, but the Men in Black still have to play the French side in Paris while Racing still have to travel to Munster, who have a formidable home record.

McCall said: "I think the thing is after four games you want to have things in your own hands and control your own destiny but we've got to go to Racing who know they're right in it but Racing have got to go to Thomond Park.

"So there are potentially some twists and turns to come in this group but at least things are in our hands and if we win twice then we'll be through."

McCall also paid tribute to his players who overturned a 15-9 defeat the week before with a much-improved performance.

He said: "We were well below our best last week and we started the game really poorly whereas we started the game really well and I think there was a real intent and physicality about the way we started.

"We are in a fortunate position that we've got two good looseheads and we had already made the call before the match that Mako (Vunipola) would come on at half time so Rhys (Gill) knew he could go hard for 40.

"Rhys did a great job in the first half in any event but I think once they had to make some changes to their front row our front row really got on top."

Owen Farrell endured a day of mixed fortunes, kicking three crucial second-half penalties but also playing a loose pass which led to Munster's first half try.

McCall though was pleased with Farrell's display.

"I think it was top class," he said.

"The thing about Owen is when there's a setback or something goes against him he responds right away.

"He's made of stern stuff - I thought he came back in, he kicked some important goals at the end, he kicked us into some important positions when he had to, but he also passed the ball well - most of the time."

The Ulsterman also hailed scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth who was particularly emotional during the pre-match tribute to his former Sale teammate David Tait.

McCall said: "It's obviously tragic what happened to David and our players from Sale - Charlie (Hodgson) and Richy (Wigglesworth) - knew him really well.

"You could say Richy was emotional before the game but thankfully he composed himself and I thought he played really well and it was his moment of class that led to that little kick through and David Strettle's try."

Saracens and England full-back Alex Goode took a knock in the first half and had to come off but the injury is not thought to be serious.

"He just got a bang on the shin after about 25 minutes - we had to let Alex soldier on for a little bit but then Chris Wyles came on and did well," McCall added.

 

 

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