Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Mark McCall rues missed chances in Saracens defeat at Bath

Saracens boss Mark McCall was left to rue missed opportunities after the Aviva Premiership champions suffered only a second loss of the league season.

England lock Maro Itoje's return to action ended in defeat after three Tom Homer penalties and a Max Clark try lifted Bath into second place as they edged out Saracens 14-11 at the Recreation Ground.

Wing Sean Maitland touched down for the Premiership leaders, while fly-half Alex Lozowski - he was also yellow-carded - kicked a penalty and drop-goal, before sending a 52-metre chance wide with the game's final kick.

"In the first half, we were poor and lucky to be maybe only three points behind at half-time," rugby director McCall said. "Bath were clearly the better team in that first half, but the second half, I thought we turned it around well.

"We had them under a lot of pressure and we had a lot of field position, and we couldn't capitalise on it. We had two or three very good chances. It's disappointing that we weren't able to score.

"We were pleased with the turnaround from the first to second half. We just didn't take our chances. Credit to Bath, they defended exceptionally well and fought for everything. Their defensive performance won them the game.

"They have been defending well all season, and the statistics back that up. They are hard to break down. It is a big win for them."

European player of the year Itoje missed England's four-Test autumn series after breaking his right hand during Saracens' European Champions Cup clash against the Scarlets in late October.

A six week lay-off ensued, but he reappeared as Saracens maintained their place at the Premiership summit, with his comeback arriving a week before they resume their European campaign through back-to-back games against Sale Sharks.

McCall added: "Even in the first half, when we weren't quite as good as a team, I thought he (Itoje) shone out a little bit.

"He carried the ball well all the way through the game, and overall I thought he did well.

"That was a game, I think everyone will agree, we probably should have got something more out of. Maybe a draw would have been a fair result.

"We had one bad half of rugby in the last three games, which was today.

"We have acquitted ourselves very well during this international period, and all credit to the players for getting stuck in and showing a lot of spirit. We have got nine points from the three games, and we are in a half-decent position."

For their part, Bath remain firmly in the title play-off mix, and rugby director Todd Blackadder said: "We overcame a psychological hurdle today.

"We were outstanding in the first half, but we had to absorb a lot of pressure in the second half. The defensive performance showed the desire - the players worked so hard for each other.

"It's a psychological hurdle of winning and beating a really good side, and we will be better for that.

"I am really pleased with where we are. We have been in the fight every single game that we've played. We haven't had a time when we have not turned up physically and mentally."

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph