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Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is still targeting first place

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is adamant his side want to finish first in the Aviva Premiership standings this season.

Saracens, who beat Sale 29-18 at Allianz Park, have slipped down to third after Exeter claimed a bonus-point win over Newcastle.

Despite tries from full back Duncan Taylor, former England wing Chris Ashton and wing Nathan Earle, plus fly-half Alex Lozowski kicking 14 points with four penalties and a conversion, a crucial try bonus point went begging.

Sale battled bravely as they crossed the line through flanker Magnus Lund and replacement hooker Cameron Nield. Captain Will Addison landed a penalty before coming off early with a nasty foot injury. His replacement, AJ McGinty, added a penalty and conversion.

McCall said: "If you finish top, it's a feather in the cap for the squad. There is definitely something to celebrate when you finish top. It means you have been the most consistent team over 22 games.

"Hopefully we will be there or thereabouts at the end.But that extra point could mean a lot in the final outcome.

"The barometer of how things are is how you defend and I thought we did that magnificently today. Brad Barritt was at the forefront of things and that set the tone for the match.

" Sale probably thought we were vulnerable and they came back at us. We are a bit disappointed that we couldn't get a fourth try but we would have taken four points before the game. "

It was also Saracens' first Premiership win in the last three rounds, having drawn at Exeter in January and then losing to both Worcester and Gloucester away this month.

McCall said: "After the Worcester game, we got a good response from the players and then at Kingsholm (Gloucester) last Friday night, in terms of the energy and effort we put into the game, it was difficult.

"But today was a step up again so we are really pleased with the attitude from the players and how physical we were. "

The match was also the first game where Sale's director of rugby Steve Diamond was forced to stay off the touchline, having been banned for six matches, three suspended until the end of next season.

He oversaw on-field matters while sat with his analysts in the stand, but was pleased with his team's contribution despite not getting anything from the game.

Diamond said: "We were out-gunned and out-streetwised by Saracens. As you know, coming to this place, if you give them opportunities, they will take them.

"But in the second-half, we did really well. There were a couple of errors and a couple of decisions didn't go our way but that's the way it goes.

"We have had a good couple of months and I thought we might have been good enough to get a bonus point but we were just weren't."


From Belfast Telegraph