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Mark McCall says experience pays off for Saracens

Published 01/05/2016

Saracens' Jacques Burger bid farewell to the club after playing his last game for them in the win over Newcastle
Saracens' Jacques Burger bid farewell to the club after playing his last game for them in the win over Newcastle

Mark McCall believes Saracens' experience was the difference as they secured an Aviva Premiership home play-off semi-final with a 23-14 victory over Newcastle Falcons.

Marcus Watson's double saw Newcastle go into half-time 14-3 ahead before two scores for Jackson Wray and another for Maro Itoje ensured Sarries will finish the regular season top of the table - while the Falcons' survival was also guaranteed even in defeat.

Director of rugby McCall said: "I think we weren't able to play the way we wanted to during the first half.

"There are a few reasons for it. Obviously, last week took a lot out of us. Crucially we also didn't train a lot this week. A lot of the players went to Europe for two or three days and had a phenomenal time and I think we showed our experience in the second half to turn the situation around; that's the important thing.

"Where we were at the end of the match is a sign of the experience that we've got. We were able to fall back on some good fundamentals that we've had for a long time."

On the club-organised trip to Dubrovnik in Croatia, McCall added: "We probably won't do it before the Champions Cup final though!

"For us, our season will finish after the Premiership semi-final or the final. It's been 20 straight weeks and we knew we needed to do something different and we needed to freshen it up."

It was an emotional afternoon at Allianz Park as Sarries fans said goodbye to flanker Jacques Burger following his last match before retirement and Newcastle cemented their Aviva Premiership status with a week to spare after London Irish's 32-25 defeat to Harlequins.

When asked if he was relieved, Falcons' director of rugby Dean Richards replied: "Yes I suppose but at the end of the day, all along we've been looking at our performance.

"We had a torrid time in the autumn with 20-odd injuries and the young guys away and we didn't get a win until Christmas until we started to get our boys back. But by then you're right down at the bottom of the table.

"Since then, it's been a lot better and that's the frustrating thing. Had we started it off with the form like in the second half of the season then we'd have been nowhere near the bottom.

"The boys are desperate to go out there and play well and string good performances together. We did it in one half today and second half we weren't quite so good, so next week hopefully we'll put together two halves."

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