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McCall on edge of greatness as Saracens humble Munster

Munster 10 Saracens 26

By David Kelly

Sporting dynasties can only be wrought through struggle; this much the men of Saracens know because they have been there.

And so any words of consolation towards Munster contain not a syllable or breath of condescension; they are at their pinnacle because, from far down the foothills, they recognised that only by imitating the best could they ever contemplate joining them.

Munster, ironically but inevitably, were the most sparkling lodestar that it seemed natural for this once shambling, nomadic and soulless collective to follow.

The results were once again writ large for all to see in front of a rapt capacity attendance in this heavily-rouged, raucous corner of Dublin 4. From flattery towards impending immortality.

When Owen Farrell and pére walked into Mulligans of Sandymount on Saturday night, they were greeted with a standing ovation; real supporters can acknowledge greatness; especially when they know intimately what it is like to have once experienced it.

Mark McCall is slightly spoken but there is no doubt he and his awesome double champions continue to make the loudest of noises on the European stage.

This 49-year-old son of Bangor, still largely unacclaimed in his own country but so admired in his adopted land, is perched upon the brink of a remarkable personal achievement, however much he will naturally seek to spurn it.

Declan Kidney currently stands alone as an Irish coach in European competition, winning the trophy twice in his second spell at the province.

Harry Williams was the first Irishman to do so, when McCall was his Ulster captain but, sadly, injured on a famous day in this old ground for the Irish game. Leinster’s three stars were pinned upon their collar with the aid of two Antipodeans.

McCall is now 80 minutes away from a second triumph but, like Kidney before him, remains subservient to the culture he has formulated and the players who thrive within it; results do not dictate but rather the manner in which they are achieved.

“It’s a cultural thing,” explains Schalk Brits.

“We’ve been together for ages and a group being together with our core principles does help. We’ve seen some tough times. We’ve lost in semi-finals and finals. We made a lot of errors today but the effort was outstanding. Our defence got us through this game. It was a good day for us.

“We have belief in each other. With these big games you can’t look too far ahead. You have to focus on the next play.

“If you start looking at the clock or the scoreboard you start losing focus on what is happening now. Two or three years ago we changed all the mindset to focus on the next play being most important. Sometimes the bounce of the ball just doesn’t go your way but if you get stuck on that thought you’re not focusing on the next job.”

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