McCall hails battling Sarries
March 5, 2011
Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick claims a lineout during his side's win at Welford Road © Getty Images
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed the battling qualities of his side after they edged to a 15-14 win in their top-of-the-table Aviva Premiership clash with Leicester at Welford Road.
Five penalties from full-back Alex Goode were enough for the Watford-based side to become the first team to win at Leicester's fortress in the league this season, having been the last side to do so at the tail-end of last term.
Leicester, who claimed the only try of the game through a powerful solo score from impressive centre Manu Tuilagi, had a last-gasp chance to extend their winning league sequence to 10 games but replacement Billy Twelvetrees was off target with a penalty.
Saracens crucially held on in the third quarter when trailing 14-9, a situation in which many opponents have crumbled at Welford Road, but a fantastic effort from the away pack gave Goode the chance to land the two kicks that sealed the win and put them within two points of the Tigers at the summit of the table.
McCall said: "We weren't cock- a-hoop in the dressing room. We have played much better than we did today but that is how you have to play against Leicester at Welford Road, it was a real arm wrestle, neither side could get away from the other and we just came out on the right end of it.
"We said before the game that there would be moments when they would have the momentum and a lot of teams get overwhelmed by that, and it's important to be able to rise to that. We were disappointed with how we defended in the first half, we didn't feel we got off the line like we had been doing and we missed a couple of tackles along the way, but we were better in the second half and that was a big factor in the win.
"Today was about who could play in the opposition half more and we just about won that battle. But this win just means we are four points closer to making sure we make the play-offs, which is all we are interested in."
McCall also praised the performance of match-winner Goode as his side's own winning run extended to six games in all competitions, including an impressive trio of away wins at Northampton, Wasps and now at Leicester.
"He is more like the Alex Goode at the end of last season," said McCall. "The last four or five weeks his kicking has been excellent and he was backed up by an excellent display by the pack. I thought we scrummed very well today too."
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill was frustrated to see his side fail to capitalise on a winning position, but refused to blame Twelvetrees following his miss.
"Kickers win you games, they don't lose you games," he said. "If Billy kicks that we are having a different conversation. It's not his fault, that's life sometimes. The team did not play as well as we needed to across the board.
"We had enough chances to win the game and we didn't take them. We didn't control the ball well enough and it cost us. They don't play too much but that is their choice and today the luck fell their side and sometimes it happens that way."
Tigers' flanker Tom Croft, recently back from shoulder injury, believes the defeat can act as a spur to Leicester as they seek to defend their title.
He said: "Last year that game they won here spurred us on. It's not ideal but teams sometimes need a kick up the backside, that we can't just turn up at home and get a win. We have a week off next week and then we will have a good week of preparation before we have to go to Bath."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter