Saracens ‘died a slow death’ in Toulouse, says Mark McCall who eyes crunch Connacht tie
06:55 13 January 2014
2013 Getty Images
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was frustrated by his team’s latest performance in the Heineken Cup.
The Aviva Premiership side saw their hopes of topping Pool Three all but ended in south-west France as they were beaten 21-11 by four-time competition winners Toulouse at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.
Mark McCall told his club’s official website: “Obviously we are very disappointed - we don’t think that we gave the best account of Saracens today. We just couldn’t get any momentum in our play.
“In the first half we gave them their points cheaply. They didn’t have to work hard to get theirs and we had to work unbelievably hard to get ours - and then we died a slow death in the second half as they got their noses in front.”
England wing Chris Ashton, who scored the only try of the game, said the 13 penalties given away was uncharacteristic of the visitors.
He explained: “It was always going to be hard coming down here. Their defence was superb, they were great at the breakdown and we struggled to get into the game.
“We got some early go-forward and perhaps we didn’t take enough advantage of that in the first half.
“We kept giving them penalties and that made it easier for them to win the game.
“Something we pride ourselves on is our work at the breakdown, but we knew they were a big physical team and they wanted to make that area a mess, get close to the ball and pick and go.
“It was something we knew was going to happen - but I don’t think we dealt with it as well as we would have liked to.
“We don’t usually give away that many penalties. It is part of our values and discipline, but they had a great kicker and he kept banging them over. To keep them to no tries is the only bonus for us.”
He added: “Playing in Europe is a step up and we have to get better at putting ourselves in the right frame of mind. You have to be better in all areas.”
McCall added: “Your set-piece has to be good to gain momentum and although our scrum was good our line-out didn’t function.
“But it has happened and we have six days to turn things around for Connacht, which is a huge game.
“If we can win that game we get the chance to go somewhere else in the quarter-finals and prove we are better than we were today.
“We have a physically battered changing room and we have to play Connacht in six days time.
“There is something at stake for them - whoever wins that game could qualify and so it is a huge game.”