Northampton Saints 15-29 Saracens, Aviva Premiership, February 12
McCall hails Sarries' resilience
February 12, 2011
Saints boss Jim Mallinder reflects on his side's defeat
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was full of praise for the way in which his side coped with the loss of two players to the sin during Saturday's crucial 29-15 victory over Northampton Saints at Franklin's Gardens.
Prop Carlos Nieto saw yellow on the half hour for cynically killing the ball and fly-half Owen Farrell joined him in the bin five minutes later for a late tackle on Shane Geraghty. At the time, the visitors were trailing 10-3, with Jon Clarke's converted try the difference between the two sides.
However, Sarries made light of their temporary numerical advantage, turning a seven-point deficit into a six-point advantage courtesy of a converted try from Brad Barritt and two penalties from Alex Goode.
Paul Diggin subsequently got Saints back into the game when he crashed over just after the hour but Sarries replied through replacement prop Matt Stevens to claim a victory which means they remain second in the standings, one place above the Saints.
Reflecting on the game, McCall felt that the key to his side's victory had been a penalty miss from Saints fly-half Stephen Meyler, which had come just after Nieto's sin-binning.
"They had the opportunity to kick the ball in the corner when it is 10-3 but, when he missed that penalty, it gave us a lot of encouragement," he said. "It was a crucial part of the match because 17-3 would have been a lot taller order. I'm delighted with everyone today and how we stepped up to it.
"We have a squad who like each other and, when you are down to 13 men, you have to play for each other which is what happened today. Having been down to 13 men against a team like Northampton and not conceded is massive.
"Our defence has been good in the last couple of weeks and was outstanding today. This is a tough place to come and so we are just glad we have got a result."
Sarcens No.8 Ernst Joubert is hit hard by Soane Tonga'uiha © Getty Images
Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder, though, felt that his captain, Phil Dowson, had been right to instruct Myler to take a shot on goal rather than go in search of a try. "It is always a tricky one. You want to get points on the board but you could go for the corner and the scrum but, if you don't get the try, you think you should have gone for the kick," he said.
"It was not nice to lose and especially at home. We came second best today and I thought Saracens were accurate. We were 10-3 up and, at that point, things looked pretty good. That period just at the end of the first-half and start of the second were vital. We had opportunities to score when they were down to 14 men.
"When teams are down to 14 men, we have to learn to look after the ball and not panic. At the end of the first-half, we could have just kept the ball and put the pressure on them. We came back in the second half and nearly got the bonus point but the game was over by then."
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