Feb 21, 2016
Young guns impress in 'win of the season' - Mark McCall
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was full of praise for his side’s backs against the wall win over Gloucester at Allianz Park on Saturday.
The reigning Aviva Premiership champions defeated the in-form Cherry and Whites despite being down to 14-men for the majority of the game, with Saracens hooker Schalk Brits sent-off after 30 minutes play for striking Nick Wood.
McCall, whose side recorded their eleventh Premiership win of the season, not only bounced back from a heavy defeat to Wasps a week earlier, but did so with a numerical disadvantage for the large part of the contest and the loss of key players such as Rhys Gill and Richard Wigglesworth to injuries that the Northern Irishman conceded may rule out the two experienced Sarries players for some time.
Speaking after the game, McCall said: "I thought it was probably the best win of the season after what happened last weekend, to respond to it in that manner.
“It takes the wind out of your sails when you lose a player like to a red card, and we’d already done 10 mins without Brad Barritt and to play another sixty minutes like that against Gloucester, to win the match and come out the right side was a phenomenal effort from everybody particularly the forwards.
"If we were going to win the game our set piece had to come to the fore and it did. Our scrum and our maul got on top and dominated the game and it was a phenomenal effort I thought.”
With Brits sent for an early bath and experienced duo Rhys Gill and Richard Wigglesworth on the treatment table in the Allianz Park home changing room after first half knocks Saracens were forced into early changes. On came reserve hooker Jared Saunders, scrum half Ben Spencer and American youngster Titi Lamositele, who all received praise from the Sarries head honcho who described their displays “as coming of age” for the young trio.
“I thought to be fair to Jared Saunders, who doesn’t very often play for us, too come on in a situation like that when we’re down to 14 men and to have a number of real pressured lineouts to throw the ball to he did exceptionally well, he really came of age today.
“Another young player who stood up was Titi (Lamositele). He’s done really well for the last six weeks. He’s very flexible he can play tighthead and loosehead, which is a real gift in this day and age, and a gift for us because the last couple of weeks he’s come on as a replacement tighthead and today it was loosehead. He’s really explosive, he’s got a bit of the Mako Vunipola about him to be honest. [He’s] a good rugby player as well, carries the ball well, gets over the ball. He’s very exciting he’s 21 years old, 21 last week, so really excited about him."
McCall also paid tribute to one of the squads more experienced players, Hayden Smith. The USA Eagle was a colossus for the Men in Black in a tumultuous game. Alongside Man of the Match Will Fraser, and No8 Jackson Wray, Smith in tandem with lock partner Jim Hamilton took the game to the Cherry and Whites in a powerful pack performance.
“It’s funny because a couple of younger players today like Jared and Ben Spencer came of age today I thought but you’ve got an older player like Hayden who also doesn’t always play that much as well, was superb,” said McCall. “Today was probably one of his (Smith’s) finest performances for Saracens. [He was] brilliant at the lineout, brilliant around the park, he had a real effect on the people around him with the voice that he has. He was one of many who were part of a wider team effort today. We’re delighted.”