Planet Rugby

McCall hails Sarries fightback

24th February 2014 05:57

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Joel Tomkins Saracens v Exeter AVP 2014

In fine form: Joel Tomkins

Saracens boss Mark McCall hailed his side's fightback as they kept up the pressure at the top of the Premiership table on Northampton Saints by beating Exeter Chiefs 23-10 at Allianz Park on Sunday.

McCall's men found themselves 7-0 down after ten minutes after a try for Exeter by Ian Whitten and a conversion from Gareth Steenson.

However, Saracens roared back and claimed the win thanks to five-pointers from James Johnston and Schalk Brits, while the trusty boot of Charlie Hodgson ensured Exeter's challenge wilted after the break.

Saracens' win was marred by an injury to England lock Mouritz Botha, which saw play held up for more than five minutes as the second-row received treatment for a head injury.

But McCall admitted he was more than satisfied with his side's win as they avoided making it two home defeats at the Allianz Park on the spin.

The hard-fought victory keeps Saracens in second place, a point behind Northampton, ahead of Friday night's visit to in-form Bath.

"Bath are on a roll at the moment and have been playing some good rugby," said McCall.

"Their set-piece is very strong and it's going to be a big battle.

"It was a mountain for us to come back from 7-0 down when they had a strong wind in the second half but we dominated the set-piece today.

"It's great to see Joel Tomkins back. In the first 20 minutes we were lethargic. We were a second off in everything we did but then Joel made a couple of important breaks and got us on the front foot."

Comparatively, Exeter boss Rob Baxter claimed it was not all doom and gloom despite the Chiefs extending their winless run to five games.

Despite the relatively comfortably scoreline for Saracens, Baxter saw his side dominate for the opening 30 minutes and hold off the challenge of a strong home side that featured a collection of international names, including Chris Ashton and Brad Barritt.

"We were very competitive for large parts of the game but when the pressure comes on we start to struggle a little bit," said Baxter.

"We scored the penalty which took us into the lead but then we dropped the restart which becomes a penalty and we're struggling.

"From being a team in the lead, with the wind behind us, all of a sudden we found ourselves playing in our own half - but all credit to Saracens. They played the elements exceptionally well.

"I can't fault the players for effort. We had quite a lot of good individual performances out there but it's just some of the decision-making under pressure. We have to keep getting better at it."

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