McCall hails ‘amazing’ Saracens squad after beating Sale
PUBLISHED: 18:09 17 November 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
Mark McCall called his depleted Saracens squad “amazing” after they fought back to beat Sale Sharks 31-25 and maintain their unbeaten start to the Gallagher Premiership season.
The champions had 18 players missing for the fixture at Allianz Park due to injury or international commitments, with Chris Wyles coming out of retirement to start Saturday’s match.
Their efforts looked in vain when Sale led 25-21 in the final 10 minutes but Joel Kpoku’s try salvaged the points.
“Had we lost today I would have been over the moon because we are very depleted,” Saracens director of rugby McCall said.
“Everyone knows how many people aren’t here on international duty or injured. For us to produce what we produced today and get five points is amazing.”
Scrum-half Ben Spencer scored 11 points with the boot, on top of tries from Michael Rhodes, Alex Lewington, Nick Tompkins and a late winner from Kpoku.
But it was in the first half, when they scored 14 unanswered points despite being to 14 men, which really impacted the match.
“We’re really chuffed with the character that the team showed,” McCall added.
“We had a real mix of experienced players who have not played much and younger players who have not played at all.
“For them to play the way they did today was over the moon. Having been under huge pressure for the whole of the second-half, with 12 minutes to go we got our chance, we had one chance five metres out and we took it.”
The Sharks have lost five of their seven matches in the league this season and director of rugby Steve Diamond was left to rue that 10 minute period in the first half when Lewington and Tompkins scored, while their teammate Will Skelton was in the sin-bin.
Rob du Preez notched 20 points for the visitors but Diamond’s side left with a solitary bonus point. Byron McGuigan got the try for the visitors just before the break.
Diamond thinks first-half performances needed to improve, as his side went in 21-13 down at the break before battling back for a 25-21 lead.
“I thought we could climb back into it, and we did effectively. We had to work for all our points where as we gave two tries away,” Diamond said.
“They scored a fantastic try from halfway from a turnover. It’s one of them where I think we probably deserved a bit more than a point but that’s the way it goes - there’s no point whinging about it.
“We have got to work on how not to give sides like Saracens so many points in the first half and we will start winning these games.”