Champions Cup: Mark McCall ‘grateful’ for Saracens’ winning return after two-year absence

Saracens boss Mark McCall expressed relief after his side secured a 30-26 bonus-point win over Edinburgh in their Champions Cup opener on Sunday.

The Londoners returned to action after a six-week break from all competitions and claimed a narrow win over a “fantastic” Edinburgh, despite producing a rusty and disjointed performance.

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Saracens lacked a lot

Elliot Daly, Alex Lewington, Ben Earl and Tom Woolstencroft scored tries at a freezing StoneX Stadium, with Owen Farrell adding two conversions and two penalties. Prop Luan de Bruin and winger Wes Goosen went over for the visitors, with Emiliano Boffelli converting both and kicking four penalties.

“We lacked quite a lot today, rhythm and intensity,” Saracens director of rugby McCall said.

“They were fantastic as they stopped our ball carries with two-man tackles, and I’m very grateful to win the game.

Settling back in the Champions Cup

After missing two years of the competition through suspension, McCall’s men were reminded about just how competitive the tournament is.

“The competition is uncompromising and today was a reminder of how tough it is, and thankfully, we got over the line as it’s never good to lose the first game at home,” he said.

“The players weren’t pleased with the performance as we lacked intensity, especially in the first half, but we were better on that front in the second.”

Daly in great form

Daly was named star of the match after scoring a try, creating another and covering back to prevent what looked a certain second-half try for Damian Hoyland.

His coach sang his praises, saying: “Elliot’s in great form, and it took a couple of pieces of magic from our leading players to get us over the line.

“He was superb today and leads by example as he loves rugby and has incredible energy.”

Blair frustrated Edinburgh fell short

Meanwhile, Edinburgh director of rugby Mike Blair was delighted by his side’s performance but expressed his frustrations in not getting the win.

“With the team we can put out onto the field, we should be challenging sides like Saracens, and I’m just frustrated that we didn’t get over that line,” he said.

“We should have the belief to win, and I believe we did as the guys out there were enjoying themselves.”

Hooker Stuart McNally and prop WP Nel were shown yellow cards in the match’s closing stages, and Blair credited his charges for staying in the game. 

“We were right in the game until the final whistle, despite having only 13 players, and a point at Saracens is not too bad an outcome,” he continued.

“We could have done a bit more, not in terms of effort, but by being smarter at times as we handed them some momentum in the second half by not doing a couple of things right.”

He added that he was proud of the performance and remained opportunistic about his side’s chances of progressing in the competition. 

“We know we can play at tempo and pace, but we showed a physical element to our game today, and I’m hugely proud of our performance and behaviour,” he said.

“Last season, sides went through to the next round with a win and a draw, so hopefully, we can achieve that.”