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Mark McCall targeting more glory for Saracens after Champions Cup success

By Jonathan Bradley

Former Ulster coach and captain Mark McCall believes that Saturday's Champions Cup victory is just the beginning for his Saracens side.

The Londoners - who beat Ulster twice in the pool stages en route to lifting the trophy - overcame Racing 92 by a score of 21-9 in a final that failed to ever spark truly into life.

The first try-less conclusion to Europe's top competition since Toulouse beat Stade Francais after extra-time in 2005, saw McCall's men triumph on the back of a flawless performance off the tee from out-half Owen Farrell who kicked seven penalties in Lyon.

"This means an awful lot," said Co Down native McCall.

"I am just so thrilled for the players, who were so well captained by Brad Barritt, but also for the staff as well and for people like the chairman Nigel Wray.

"Seven years ago this project began and Edward Griffiths (CEO) and Brendan Venter (former director of rugby) were at the heart of it. I hope this makes them proud.

"Owen Farrell ran the game cleverly and smartly and it was a brilliant team effort.

"I also thought that our half backs were wise and tactically class.

"I thought for large parts we were in control and we had good clarity of thought when it was a six-point game.

"We really do have a tightness and togetherness about this group."

McCall, who was captain of Ulster in 1999 but didn't play in the final after a career-ending neck injury - had taken the Premiership side to the brink of European glory two seasons ago but they eventually came up short against Toulon in the Millennium Stadium.

With one Champions Cup title now in the bag, the former Irish international thinks his powerful squad can go from strength to strength.

"Two years we weren't good enough against Toulon," he reflected.

"They kept us at arm's length, but I thought that for most of the match we kept Racing at arm's length - I thought we controlled the game.

"(Saturday) was evidence of how we have grown since two years ago - we learned a lot from that defeat.

"What we said in the week, and it was not just said to take pressure off the team, was that if we stay humble, which we will, and stay hungry, which I know we will, we truly believe there will be more days like this ahead of us."

Assistant Racing 92 coach Ronan O'Gara hopes that, just as Saracens did with their own final loss, his side will learn from this setback.

"The better team has won and it is extremely disappointing," said the Munster and Ireland legend.

"At this level it is all about being champions and we weren't good enough.

"The most important thing for us to realise is that it was Saracens' turn to become champions and that we weren't good enough.

"If we take some crucial learnings we could be good enough in the future, but the better team won."

Belfast Telegraph


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