Saracens boss Mark McCall hails progression to Heineken Cup quarter finals as an 'outstanding achievement'

Picture: Action Images

Picture: Action Images

First published in Sport by

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed his team's progression to the Heineken Cup quarter finals as an "outstanding achievement."

The Men in Black finished top of Pool One on 23 points, three ahead of Munster and as fourth best qualifiers overall meaning Sarries will have a home draw against Ulster in the last eight.

It is only the third time in the club's history that Saracens have made it to the competition's knockout stages and McCall emphasised the scale of that achievement.

"The campaign we've had in Europe this year has been a really outstanding achievement by the players," he said.

"It was a difficult group - Munster are a real powerhouse of this game, Edinburgh were in the semi-finals last year we shouldn't forget and Racing, with all their big names that they've got - we've navigated our way through this group really well.

"We did well last year, we came in the top four and got a home quarter final and really got out-gunned a little bit by Clermont.

"I think we're wiser for it, we're a better team than we were then and [the Ulster game] is in the distance a little bit but it's one we will all relish as well."

Saracens capped off the group stages in style, beating Edinburgh 40-7 in snowy conditions and scoring five tries in the process.

"I don't think we can appreciate just how difficult it was out there," McCall said. 

"The players were saying after the match it was as bad as they'd played in - the ball was like a bar of soap - sometimes it was better not having the ball.

"So the key today was to be patient and to keep your composure but also to control the position enough that you would get some opportunities inside their 22 and thankfully we got enough opportunities and put them away."

"14-0 gave us a bit of a cushion and then we hoped we would press on and go for those tries but they scored a try and it was a seven-point game at half time and thankfully we got a try early doors in the second half and that made a huge difference."

The Men in Black's second score was particularly inventive as Owen Farrell took a quick penalty, kicking the ball cross-field to an expectant Chris Ashton who duly collected and ran home.

McCall said the move was not pre-planned and reserved special praise for Ashton, who had already notched a try in the first half.

"I can't take any credit for the try," McCall said.

"Obviously Owen and Ashy saw each other and it's great to see Ashy scoring a couple of tries and getting back to what he does best but it was great vision by Owen too."

The Sarries boss was also pleased with the performance of his pack and his half backs as Charlie Hodgson was recalled at fly half while Farrell shifted to outside centre.

"I thought our forwards put in a huge effort today - we got ascendancy at the set piece, penalties at the scrum, our maul was really on top we scored a couple of tries through that, it was just a good solid all round game in really diffcult conditions," he said.

"We're pretty fortunate with the half backs we've got at the club.

"Richard Wigglesworth had a fantastic game as well and then Neil de Kok comes on with 30 minutes and puts us in the right areas.

"And we've got Owen [Farrell] and Charlie [Hodgson] who I get questioned about every week about why I start Charlie when Owen played well last week but they compliment each other really well and we're very fortunate to have the half backs we've got at the club."

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree