Saracens coach Mark McCall defends Schalk Brits' punch on Nick Wood
Mark McCall insisted Schalk Brits' punch on Nick Wood was motivated by fear as Saracens survived the dismissal of their hooker to brush aside Gloucester 25-12 at Allianz Park.
Brits was shown a red card in the 30th minute for landing a left hook on Wood, who departed for a head injury assessment before the concussion he sustained ended his afternoon.
Remarkably, Saracens still dominated the match with full-back Ben Ransom crossing and fly-half Charlie Hodgson kicking 20 points.
"Schalk has obviously struck him on the head, but if you look at the incident, then Schalk's knee is trapped as Nick Wood clears him out," Saracens director of rugby McCall said.
"Schalk is almost frightened and is trying to get him off him as quickly as he can. He did the ACL on that knee last November so there was a bit of fear there. He swung to get the player off you."
Saracens played three quarters of the match with only 14 men after Brad Barritt was sin-binned for a tip-tackle on Ross Moriaty and McCall was delighted with an emphatic response to last Sunday's 64-23 home defeat by Wasps.
"That was probably our best win of the season after what happened last weekend," McCall said.
"It takes the wind out of your sails when you lose a player like that. We'd already done 10 minutes without Brad Barritt and were then playing into the wind in the second half.
"It was a phenomenal effort from everybody, most particularly from our forwards."
Typifying Saracens' determination in the face of a series of setbacks, including the loss of scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth to a dislocated finger, was the commitment shown by replacement prop Juan Figallo.
Figallo reported for duty despite seeing his first child born only three hours before kick-off.
"Juan's wife had a baby and we encouraged him not to come. At 1200 we told him to stay where he was in Stevenage Hospital, that we'd manage," McCall said.
"He hung around for 45 minutes after the baby was born and then came down. He wanted to come and help the team. He walked into the changing room to a big roar from the players at 2.15pm."
Gloucester's inability to take advantage of the extra man was lamented by director of rugby David Humphreys.
"No one is pleased with that performance. We're very disappointed with the scoreline," Humphreys said.
"For me, it felt like watching Gloucester 15-18 months ago. Our set-piece creaked, we lacked discipline in an 18-8 penalty count. You'll never win at Allianz Park with that many penalties.
"Saracens, with 14 men, found a way to win the game and that's why they're a championship team."