Mark McCall hails his players for reverting to ‘Saracens fundamentals’ against Exeter

David Skippers
Theo McFarland celebrates try Saracens v Exeter Chiefs 2024 - Alamy.jpg

Saracens' players celebrate Theo McFarland's try in their win over Exeter Chiefs.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was full of praise for his players after they sealed a 40-22 win over Exeter Chiefs in their Premiership clash at StoneX Stadium on Saturday.

McCall hailed his troops for reverting “to some Saracens fundamentals” and the result means the defending champions are back in the title race, with their win lifting them into the top four on the standings.

Owen Farrell leads the way

Racing 92-bound Owen Farrell led the way for Sarries with a 15-point haul courtesy of three conversions, two penalties and a drop goal while James Hadfield crossed for a brace of tries.

The Premiership now takes an eight-week break for the Six Nations but Sarries are in a favourable position for a play-off push when the action resumes towards the end of March.

“The last 13 days have been the most enjoyable of the season,” said McCall. “It got a little bit better in the Lyon game and a lot better here, we were great in the last 25 minutes. It tells me there’s something good in the room.

“We’ve got a good group of players and staff, and when things got difficult we pulled together and have come out the other side for now.

“We’ve gone back to some Saracens fundamentals on and off the field. We’ve had a really good balance in the last 13 days of a bit of play and some hard work, and that’s paid off.

“We’re in the mix now. It feels like there’s going to be a sprint to the line.

“There are eight or nine teams that can qualify for the top four and, hopefully, we can build on what we’ve done in the last two weeks.”

The opening half was a tight affair as the sides were level at 15-15 at half-time with Hadfield and Ivan van Zyl scoring Sarries’ tries while Olly Woodburn and Greg Fisilau responded with five-pointers for the Chiefs.

A Josh Hodge error was pounced on by Juan Martin Gonzalez which put Saracens back in front but the Chiefs full-back made up for his earlier mistake by launching the counter-attack which led to a superb try by Rusi Tuima.

However, Sarries took control of proceedings after that with Farrell’s boot, along with tries from Hadfield and Theo McFarland, clinching their bonus-point triumph.

Mixed emotions for Exeter boss

Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter had mixed emotions after the game.

“In a lot of ways, it’s our best performance for a couple of years here,” he said.

“We were in the game but ultimately we made enough individual errors to deserve to lose the game.

“Conceding straight after half-time is such a sucker blow and it was a bit of comedy of errors to concede a try the way we did.

“We did well to fight back from that, but the way that try got scored started to repeat itself. Then Saracens can control their way into getting a decent lead.

“There was a big chunk of the game where we were a try away from two bonus points. That would have been a great return but we got a bit panicky and that multiplied the pressure on us.”

READ MORE: Classy Owen Farrell commands Saracens to bonus point win over Exeter Chiefs