McCall salutes Sarries defence
February 20, 2011
Saracens wing James Short launches himself over the whitewash during Sunday's win over Leeds © Getty Images
Saracens may have run in five tries during Sunday's 39-0 demolition of Leeds Carnegie at Vicarage Road but director of rugby Mark McCall felt that defence discipline was the key to his side's resounding win.
Michael Tagicakibau, Brad Barritt, James Short, Richard Wigglesworth and Chris Wyles all touched down for the hosts during a one-sided encounter but rather than hail some incisive back-line play, McCall was far more taken with the fact that his players had managed to keep their opponents scoreless.
"It was important to us to do a very professional job in this game. Our defence was critical, as we discussed all week, and we were determined to take our defence to a new level," he said. "A lot of our points and our pressure actually came from our defence, which was as good as I have seen it.
"We're in the middle now of a block of difficult games, three of them away, and we've managed two good wins. But next we go away to Wasps, and then away to Leicester, before getting a mini-break during the LV= Cup semi-finals and final weekend."
McCall singled out Justin Melck for particular praise after the flanker impressed for the second game in a row following his heroics against Northampton last weekend.
"He is a top-class bloke, in addition to being a very good rugby player," the former Ulster boss said. "Justin does the basics very well. He works his socks off and does the hard yards without ever looking for the spotlight. He had a fine game in our win at Northampton, and he was working hard throughout the game against Leeds.
"It was also good to see Steve Borthwick back after a month out injured. His experience in the second row and his leadership are very important to us.
"These players and their hugely professional attitude have made my transition from head coach to director of rugby very straightforward. We have a good group here, the backroom staff as well as the players, and when Brendan Venter decided he needed to take his family back to South Africa and become our technical director, I was very pleased with the way the transition took place, in that it doesn't seem to have created any ripples in terms of our performances.
"At one point, this season seemed endless, but now that we are focusing totally on the Premiership, we have nine games to go, and I've decided to call them 'projects', because each one will have its own preparations, and it allows the players to focus on each challenge."
Meanwhile, Leeds boss Neil Back dismissed the suggestion that his side's dismal display had had anything to do with the departure of director of rugby Andy Key earlier in the week.
"On the back of the news in the week, we had a very good training week. We prepared well, and we looked for an explosive start at Vicarage Road - which is exactly what our opponents achieved," he said. "It was tough, and we battled hard, but Saracens took their chances well.
"It's the first time we've been 'nilled', yet I am pleased with the character we showed against a team full of beans and confidence and taking their chances.
"That was the best defensive display I've seen from an opposition all season, which is a tribute to Saracens' coaching team. They were tremendously well-organised. Our guys were sitting in the dressing room, heads down, very disappointed. But they're very together as a squad, very determined to succeed.
"People say our next game, against Newcastle, is now even more important. But it doesn't work that way. Every game we have left is important in our battle to stay in the Premiership."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures takes in a fiery East Midlands derby and all the action from the Aviva Premiership and Top 14
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton