Rugby Union: Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall admits long list of absentees hurt hopes of success at Exeter Chiefs in Aviva Premiership

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall (Paul Harding/PA)

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall (Paul Harding/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Allianz Park outfit suffered a 24-12 defeat in league at Sandy Park on Saturday

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall believes his team were hampered by missing 18 players through injury or international duty for their 24-12 loss at Exeter Chiefs in the Aviva Premiership.

Saracens slipped to third in the table after suffering a second straight league defeat, having lost to Leicester Tigers the week before.

Chiefs fly-half Joe Simmonds kicked four penalties and provided a key assist for full-back Phil Dollman’s try.

Exeter’s superior scrum was rewarded with a second-half penalty try, while Saracens claimed touchdowns from Ben Earl and Marcelo Bosch.

The defeat was a blow for the north Londoners hopes of topping the regular season table, but McCall believes it was an improved display following the loss to Tigers.

“I am much more pleased with the performance we put in this week than last week,” said the 50-year-old.

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“We lost Brad Barritt and Chris Wyles through injury, whereas Exeter’s matchday 23 was more or less at full strength. It is what it is.

“We know what the calendar is, and the international players who aren’t here, we expect them not to be here, but to lose (injured) players like Vincent Koch, Will Skelton, Christopher Tolofua, Schalk Burger, Callum Clark and Michael Rhodes, we do expect to be here.

“To lose six really good players from your pack, never mind people like Mako Vunipola and Jamie George, is a lot to contend with.

“But I actually thought we fronted up really well, and we can be encouraged how we defended at crucial times.”

Exeter head coach Rob Baxter, meanwhile, feels that a visit from European champions Saracens brought the best out of his players.

“I am pleased for the players. They want to do well and perform well, and I thought the challenge of Saracens coming here really brought the best out of us,” he said.

“We thrived on the pressure of a two-point lead going into the wind in the second-half created.

“To give up so little field position against Saracens with the wind behind them is a pretty strong achievement.”

Saracens are now without a match until March 24, when they host Harlequins at the London Stadium in Stratford.