McCall salutes Sarries' England stars as they shoot down Quins
PUBLISHED: 19:30 24 March 2013 | UPDATED: 11:36 26 March 2013
Saracens boss Mark McCall paid tribute to his England players who bounced back from the crushing Six Nations defeat by Wales to help the Premiership leaders comprehensively beat defending champions Harlequins 27-12 at Allianz Park.
Owen Farrell contributed 17 points, while Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, and Mako Vunipola all played their parts in a victory which was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
“I’ve got to take my hat off to our English guys who had a difficult weekend last weekend. All of them, to a man, wanted to play today,” said director of rugby McCall.
“It says a lot about the the environment and the general group that they are so keen to come back and enjoy it so much - but some of our non-internationals were pretty good today as well.”
McCall added: “We know our season didn’t hinge on today.
“But as a team we played really well. Our tackling game caused them some problems and we scored our tries at the right times.”
The Saracens boss was delighted with the performance of under-pressure England winger Ashton.
He said: “Chris had a really top game and got himself involved, for a guy who has taken his criticism over the last few weeks.
“Two years ago we thought Chris Ashton was the best player in the world and he just needs to have the confidence that his coaches believe in him.”
Ashton was yellow-carded in the closing stages for a high tackle on Harlequins’ replacement flanker Maurie Fa’asavalu but McCall said: “He mis-timed the challenge. There was no intent to cause any harm, It was just one of those things.”
McCall also had words of praise for the way man-of-the-match Vunipola, the 22-year-old recently-capped England prop, took on opposite number James Johnston, who is joining Saracens from Quins in the summer.
“The best thing he did today was scrummage against James Johnston. For a young prop, with only 12 months in the Premiership behind him, we all know he can do incredibly special things in the loose but he knows what he does in the tight is very important and he did it well today,” McCall said.
“We all know, from watching his performance today, how far he can go - and will go.”