McCall sings Goode’s praises

Date published: April 17 2016

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Chris Ashton scored a first-half brace as Saracens beat Harlequins at Wembley but it was full-back Alex Goode that drew the most praise from director of rugby Mark McCall.

In front of 80,650 spectators in the show-piece London derby, Goode scooped the man of the match award with a virtuoso display at full-back.

Victory for Saracens cements their spot at the top of the Premiership table, but leaves Harlequins trailing in their quest for a top-four finish.

The Wembley clash between London's two city clubs has become an annual fixture in recent seasons, with last year's match drawing a crowd of 84,068; a world record for club rugby.

Sarries are now all but assured a home semi-final and McCall was delighted with his full-back's form.

"Over the last couple of seasons he (Goode) has played as well as anybody in England in that position. He's been phenomenal for us all season," he said.

"The clubs deserve a lot of credit, a lot of people work hard to make this happen. We'd like to have given them something better in the second half. 

"But we've won four games in a row the games, two of those against Exeter and Bath were outstanding performances, last week and this week have been a little bit below the standards that we would expect.

"Our penalty count was that of a losing team and a third of them came at scrum time, so that is something we'll have to fix for next week.

"We scrummed magnificently against Northampton last weekend and we were the opposite of that in this game."

Three penalties from Ben Botica kept Quins in the contest in the first half but Sarries had three tries by the break.

A smart off-load from Goode, at the end of a fluent passing move, released Ashton to score the first. Their second came when lock George Kruis pinched the ball off the Harlequins skipper Danny Care a few metres from the line and bundled over.

And they put some clear daylight on the scoreboard just a few minutes before the break, a sensational run and one handed off-load from forward Schalk Brits set up Ashton for his second score of the game, completed with a trademark swan dive under the posts.

After the break Botica and replacement Owen Farrell traded penalties but it was not enough for Quins. 

"In the league we have to look to try and win our final two games and get in the top six," said Harlequins' director of rugby Conor O'Shea.

"Your goals do change, that's sport. They'll be disappointed but we'll move on.

"It's an unforgiving league at the best of times; we had a tough Six Nations window and we haven't been able to get it back in time.

"That was two good sides out there. It was tough, it was physical. The momentum moments in that match went their way today.

"That's the margins at the top level. The fellas are bitterly disappointed because our aim was top four, but now our goals will have to change very quickly. We'll have to nail our two league games but we also want to get to a final in Lyon and that means beating Grenoble." 

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