Tough win delights McCall

Date published: January 18 2016

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed his side's clinical second-half showing after they beat a tough Ulster team 33-17 on Saturday.

Victory secured a home quarter-final for Saracens as they top the European standings on 24 points, with the win a big plus for boss McCall.

"We're really pleased over all, it was a really tough match. It's (Ulster) probably one of the best defences we've come up against all season. It took us everything we had to break them down, so to score four tries against them is quite a big achievement to be honest," he told Saracens' website.

"There was nothing in it in the first half, although we had a quite a lot of field position during that period of time we gave away a soft score from long range, but I though the first 20 minutes of the second half we really dominated and were very clinical in that period of time so a good win for us.

"It's easy to over complicate your analysis of a bad performance or loss and I don't think we did that. It's usually something very fundamental and in our case it was our energy and our intensity which we rely upon just was a little bit off. It was a lesson for us. If you're a little bit off in certain areas it's difficult to perform at that level. Today although we started a bit slowly defensively we got better and better as the game went on. I thought in general the intensity of our performance was spot on."

After the hard-fought triumph, McCall reserved praise for fly-half Owen Farrell, whose assist for Duncan Taylor's try proved a turning point in the game.

"I thought he (Farrell) was outstanding. When he misses his kicks he puts it behind him and he gets the next one over, he usually gets the important ones over. He had a great game I thought a lot of people played really well," he said.

"It (Farrell's assist) obviously moved us a little bit away from them on the scoreboard but it felt already at that point that we were taking control. We had a lot of field position but they were difficult to break down and we'd missed the odd kick here and there. I think another key moment might have been the maul before half time. Their tails were really up, we were behind on the scoreboard and that maul was a brilliant try. It took a lot to score that try as we were initially collapsed and had to reform. That maul before half time gave us a bit of confidence in the second half."

He added: "I think the set piece was a factor today. We've got five of our young forwards in the mix for England [and] how we scrummed, our defensive line-out was brilliant all day, so set-piece was very important."