Rugby Union

Saracens performance gives Mark McCall encouragement

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Saracens boss Mark McCall has confidence his side can further strengthen their grip on top spot in the Aviva Premiership as they moved five points clear of second-placed Exeter with a 14-11 victory over the Chiefs at Sandy Park.

McCall's side came back from an 11-0 deficit to triumph 14-11 in Devon with Charlie Hodgson kicking three penalties to add to a try from number eight Samu Vunisa.

A splendid try from James Short and two penalties from Gareth Steenson had seen Exeter build up an 11-0 lead but it was not enough as Saracens, aided by the strong wind in the second half, overhauled them.

McCall said; "If we had lost that one, I would have said it was one that got away as we had much the better of possession and territory but they defended very well.

"We were 11-0 down playing against the strong wind but we didn't deserve to be and Vunisa's try just before the interval was crucial as we went into half-time only six points down.

"It doesn't get any easier as we have Wasps next week and they have less players away to international calls than we do, but I have confidence in this group of players for the next few weeks."

Exeter boss Rob Baxter was not too despondent about his side's narrow defeat.

"The result is not the be all and end all as we are still second in the Premiership and overall our performance was pretty good as we just lost a game, late in the day against a very good side," he said.

"It was a tough game and a very close one but I'm slightly frustrated with certain aspects of our game.

"Our ill-discipline just before half-time gave them a try and it was a huge moment in the match, so we have to be a little bit better."

Exeter declined to take a couple of seemingly kickable penalties in the last 10 minutes in favour of more attacking options but their controversial choice went unrewarded.

"The first one was a bit further away but the second one was a lot closer," Baxter added.

"Both would have been tough kicks and you have to let Gareth Steenson make the call as he's on the field and knows the strength of the wind. It was a 50-50 call, which could have gone either way but no one was successful with a kick into the wind today."

Exeter lock Geoff Parling echoed Baxter's assessment of the match.

"Our discipline should have been better and then they wouldn't have been in the game," he said.

"We've got Sale next up; they've got a good team with a good home record so we are expecting a battle up there."

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