Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

McCall hails Saracens' achievement

Mark McCall was thrilled with how Saracens bounced back from defeat to Toulon

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed a "big achievement" for his side after seeing them finish top of the regular season standings for the first time.

Saracens assured themselves of top spot in the Aviva Premiership with a hard-earned 23-14 victory over Bath at Allianz Park, a victory which left them three points above nearest challengers Leicester.

A delighted McCall, whose side have finished third-second-third in the regular season table in the past three years, said: "It is a big achievement as Saracens have always struggled for consistency. However, it's now our fourth consecutive semi-final and the first time that we have finished top at the end of a regular season."

Saracens, looking to bounce back from the disappointment of last weekend's Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Toulon, were nowhere near their best, playing only in fits and starts, but still did enough to gain a home semi-final against Northampton next weekend.

England trio Chris Ashton, Mako Vunipola and Owen Farrell scored tries for the hosts, with the rest of their points coming from the boot of Farrell.

Rob Webber and Horacio Agulla crossed for Bath, with Tom Heathcote converting both, but the visitors fell short in the end to scupper any hopes of Heineken Cup rugby for the west country outfit next season.

It was an ultimately deserved victory for Saracens, but McCall conceded it was not a perfect performance by any means.

"We were a bit mixed and weren't precise enough," he said, "We were very good in the first 20 minutes and had Mako Vunipola's pass to Chris Ashton not been judged to be forward it would have been a more relaxing afternoon for us.

"We have to give credit to Bath for they made it difficult for us but I am thrilled how well we have come back from last Sunday's defeat by Toulon."

Bath assistant coach Mike Ford said: "We showed great character to get it back to 20-14 and I thought that we might sneak it as at that stage as we were only one try away from European qualification. We had a scrum in front of their posts but were penalised and a late penalty from Owen Farrell was a bridge too far for us."

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