Saracens boss Mark McCall welcomed Chris Ashton back with open arms after the winger made a try-scoring return from suspension in their win over Newcastle Falcons.
Ashton’s late effort at Allianz Park on Christmas Eve added to Marcelo Bosch’s first-half score, with Owen Farrell kicking 11 points to help the defending champions to a hard-fought win over the Falcons – who failed to score after the 11th minute.
And while McCall admitted the game was not one for fans of running rugby, he was pleased to have the prolific Ashton back in his side.
“It is good to have Chris back in the team and scoring tries. It wasn’t the best game for him to come back for but he got his name on the scoresheet,” he told the Premiership's official website.
“His attitude in training has been fine. He’s been waiting for this chance to play again and now he’s keen to get a couple of starts. We now just want to see more of what he’s given the club over the last four years.”
Despite the scoreline, Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards was heartened by the desire shown by his side, who kept the defecit to a converted score until the 70th minute.
“I was asked before the game if we had come down just to lose, and that is absolutely not the case,” he said.
“The boys came down to win, we pushed Saracens for 80 minutes and that’s the same approach we will adopt against Wasps and Bath over the next fortnight. The scoreline probably didn’t reflect the game but, having said that, when you get your chances you have to take them.We were disappointed to into half-time 13-6 down, and as a consequence we felt a little bit hard done to.
“It is difficult to criticise the players because they put in a massive shift against one of the best defences in the country. Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t, but it was never going to be easy against Saracens. You have to be at 100 per cent when you play against them and everything has to go for you, even if we felt we should have come away with more than we did in the end.”