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McCall heaps praise on Farrell

Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall praised the performance of England's Owen Farrell following their narrow 19-15 victory over Sale Sharks in the European Champions Cup.

The stand-off has struggled this season with injury and failed to impress in the Red Rose's autumn series as he was eventually dropped in favour of Bath's George Ford.

However, the 23-year-old played a vital part in their win over the Manchester outfit by scoring a try and kicking six points.

With McCall admitting that centre Brad Barritt could be out for "a while" after pulling a calf muscle on international duty, the Sarries boss is pleased with Farrell's return to the club.

"Owen's great," he said. "He's a brilliant young fella and a brilliant young player. He comes back to the club and he understands that he's not played much rugby this year. With Charlie (Hodgson) off injured, it was wonderful to have someone of Owen's calibre to see us home.

"His drop-goal was good, he almost had another one but Owen's going to get better and better, we all know that."

Despite displaying their forward power on a number of occasions throughout, Saracens could not quite put away a resilient Sharks' team and were put under severe pressure in the final 10 minutes.

They managed to somehow hold out and McCall felt that their defending in the latter stages of the match was "heroic".

He added: "There was a lot about our performance that was quite good but we know how difficult this place is to come.

"There was perhaps a bit of anxiousness in the second half and we conceded some scrum penalties in the last 20 minutes, which turned us a lot and gave them a lot of territory and field position.

"We've got to do the business again next week. I thought our defence in the last 20 minutes was pretty heroic. Sale had a lot of energy throughout and there were times where we could have felt sorry for ourselves and we didn't."

Meanwhile, Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond insists that another good performance against a top European side is no consolation for their third successive defeat in the competition.

He said: "We could have won in the last five minutes and we probably lacked a bit of composure. We were hammering at their line, getting penalty after penalty and probably in the Premiership they would have got a yellow card, but it wasn't to be.

"They're a good side and they pushed the boundaries of offside quite a lot. There was probably a bit of inexperience from the referee coming out of the Celtic League by not being used to how streetwise teams like Saracens are.

"It's difficult to be pleased with a performance like that in the 'Group of Death' as it's called. We can put up a good show but being close isn't good enough at this moment in time and we should have won the game in our eyes."

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