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This is my most satisfying title yet, says proud McCall

 

All smiles: Bangor man Mark McCall celebrates Saracens’ success at Twickenham
All smiles: Bangor man Mark McCall celebrates Saracens’ success at Twickenham
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

Mark McCall led Saracens to yet another trophy on Saturday, a 37-34 win over Exeter seeing the London side crowned Premiership champions once again.

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The second leg of a league and European Cup double having beaten Leinster in the Champions Cup final last month, the Bangor man has guided the side to an incredible seven major honours during his tenure as head coach.

After the win at Twickenham, the man who was also at the helm when Ulster last won a piece of silverware believes this most recent trophy is the most satisfying.

"We huffed and puffed, but somehow this group found a way physically and emotionally," he said.

"It was a really tough final - the toughest we've ever had in the Premiership. We couldn't control them but somehow this group never ceases to amaze me in finding a way and the energy.

"We looked tired and once we went three points up we played great pressure rugby and it was a real masterclass.

"It's our seventh consecutive win in a final, which is an incredible achievement from this group of players. This is our most satisfying win because it's the worst we've played.

"I suppose it's because of what we've been through. Six years with this group of players, and we've had some painful experiences.

"But they decided to give it a proper go and emotionally we were very good in that last 20 minutes.

"I just feel lucky to be a part of it, we are on an incredible journey at the moment."

In what was a superb final between England's two best club sides of recent years, 10 tries were split evenly with Saracens having to come from 11 points down to claim their fourth title of the past five seasons.

Exeter, for whom Armagh man Gareth Steenson appeared as a second-half substitute, led 22-16 at half-time and that lead was extended further thanks to an unconverted try from Henry Slade.

McCall's men came roaring back however, tries by Liam Williams, Sean Maitland and a second of the day for hooker Jamie George ensuring Saracens would not be beaten.

Exeter would score again through Sam Hill but it was by then nothing more than consolation.

Having finished the season top of the table, the Sandy Park men were playing in their fourth final in a row, but have now lost to Saracens three times at this stage. Exeter coach Rob Baxter believes we are witnessing a side of historic significance.

"They probably are," said Baxter, when asked if this Saracens team was the best English club side of all time. "Their record speaks for itself. They're winning Premierships, they're winning European Cups.

"It feels to me like we're disappointed that we haven't beaten them, so that bodes well for Exeter Chiefs as well.

"What I have to do now is convince this group of players that if they keep working hard and moving in the right direction we should be challenging again next year.

"If you can take the European champions that close then there has to be more in Europe for us."

The thrilling contest produced reason for concern though for England coach Eddie Jones as Exeter full-back Jack Nowell hobbled off with an ankle injury and left Twickenham on crutches. The 2017 British and Irish Lion is set to be an important figure for England at the World Cup in just three months' time.

"It's a little early to say about Jack. I haven't been able to catch up with him or the medics who are dealing with him," Baxter added.

"I would imagine it will be the usual story - until he has a scan we won't know. It looked like his ankle and he has had a couple of ankle issues this season. He was outstanding."

Elsewhere, Ulster native Jeremy Davidson, with a team containing Stuart Olding and Rory Scholes, guided Brive to the Top 14 after a play-off victory over Grenoble yesterday.

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