McCall hails Saracens as Strettle brace sees off Saints
PUBLISHED: 19:13 15 September 2018 | UPDATED: 19:13 15 September 2018
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Mark McCall praised his Saracens side for their composure after David Strettle's late brace secured a 38-27 win for the defending Gallagher Premiership champions at Northampton Saints.
Wing Strettle, 35, scored twice in just three minutes late on to seal a bonus-point success, while Alex Lewington also scored a brace of tries in the first period.
Ben Spencer dived over for Saracens too as they defied yellow cards in either half for England stars Jamie George and Billy Vunipola.
Northampton’s tries came via Piers Francis, Dylan Hartley and Ben Franks, but it was not enough and McCall said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to win and to get five points. It was a game we won three or four times.
“Our defensive maul was really poor and we gave away a couple of penalties on the halfway line which resulted in Northampton putting us under a lot of pressure.
“Other than that I thought we were very dominant and the rest of our game was in really good order. We attacked well, we got over the gain line, and won the majority of the collisions.”
Strettle’s late salvo ensured Saracens came out on top and the veteran winger earned special praise from McCall.
“Dave is a beautiful athlete,” he added. “If you wanted to be a runner, that’s the way you want to run. Alex scored two more tries and it’s good for us that our wingers are scoring.
“A lot of people played well, but what is most pleasing is having got into a position when we were two points up with 10 minutes to go, a lot of teams would have panicked in that situation.
“We were very composed and showed a lot of our experience.”
The two sides went to the break level at 10-10. George’s early sin-binning allowed Francis to crash over from a scrum and Dan Biggar kicked the conversion and a penalty.
Saracens started slowly but got back into the game when Spencer’s 65-metre box kick found no one home in the Northampton defence and Lewington won the race to the line.
Lewington added his second, with Alex Goode and Liam Williams involved in the build-up and scrum-half Spencer dummied his way over for a try when the game resumed and converted his own score, but the second half swung back and forth.
Spencer kicked a penalty and Goode added two of his own, but Northampton’s driving maul was giving them success and when Vunipola was next to see yellow, the Saints struck.
Hartley and Franks both rumbled over and the boot of Biggar set up a grandstand finish.
Biggar’s 70th-minute penalty gave Saints a one-point lead, but it only served to wind Strettle up and Goode converted one of his two scores to see out the game.
Northampton director of rugby Chris Boyd said: “It’s frustrating because there was a lot of effort for no reward. We battled away for 80 minutes and came away with nothing. With 10 minutes to go we were in the hunt, so it’s disappointing.
“Saracens are very good, but we were optimistic that if we could put our game-plan in place then we could give them a really good run, we just didn’t do it for long enough.
“Dylan is well on the way back to blowing his lungs out and knocking his body around. I think he will get better as he beds himself back into playing. He did a brilliant job for us.”