No consolation for Ulster as McCall says it wasn't a red
It didn't take long for Mark McCall's view on the Jared Payne incident to be requested by a ravenous media eager to see if he was willing to weigh in behind Mark Anscombe's understandably bewildered verdict.
The former Ulster coach played it pretty straight regarding the incident which was, not surprisingly, dominating pretty much all the post-match chat and somewhat detracting from the fact McCall had come out ahead on the return to his home turf to ensure that Saracens had made a second successive Heineken Cup semi-final.
McCall (pictured) agreed that Payne's "reckless" act in colliding with the airborne Alex Goode could have merited a yellow card, and 10 minutes in the bin, but hardly a straight red over an incident referee Jerome Garces deemed as dangerous play and which held the game up for four minutes while the full-back, who made a full recovery after landing on his neck, was stretchered from the field.
"It definitely wasn't intentional (Payne's collision) but it was reckless," the Saracens coach said.
"You could argue both ways but it's a big call to make five minutes into the match and it changes the match."
And would he have quibbled if the referee had brandished a yellow card instead of the red one?
"I don't think so," was McCall's reply.
"I don't think Jared Payne intended to do that, it wasn't an intentional act but it is very reckless and it could have caused a serious injury, but if a yellow card had been given? No we wouldn't (have quibbled)."
McCall rightly went on to praise Ulster for coping so well with having to play 75 minutes reduced to 14 men and ensuring the result was in the balance right to the final whistle.
"Ulster deserve an enormous amount of credit after losing a man after five minutes and not only from the effort they put in but to also be as tactically astute and aware as they were was a great achievement and we're just lucky we got over the line at the end," he said.
"We gave away too many penalties," he added, lamenting the 13 awarded against them.
"At times we played some good rugby and at times our physicality was outstanding but we kept on showing unbelievable indiscipline.
"We were fortunate to get away with the win," he said in the wake of booking a Twickenham semi-final with Clermont.
Even with his knowledge of Ravenhill, McCall admitted that the atmosphere at the redeveloped ground had even greater intensity than he had expected.
"We tried to prepare the players for what we thought it would be like but it was bigger than we thought and the way they (Ulster) fought together – the team and the crowd – if they can continue to do that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with for years to come."
Nice words, but scant consolation to a devastated Ulster.