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Monday 15 September 2014

McCall hails superb Saracens

Published 19/01/2014 | 07:47

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Alex Goode, pictured, drew special praise from Saracens head coach Mark McCall for his performances against Connacht.

Saracens head coach Mark McCall heaped glowing praise on his side after seeing them thrash Connacht 64-6 to seal their spot in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, while describing full-back Alex Goode's performance as "unbelievable".

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Sarries ran in 11 tries in the victory with David Strettle notching a hat-trick and Chris Ashton adding another two as McCall's men qualified as one of the best two runners-up having finished behind Toulouse in Group Three.

It was an impressive all-round showing from Saracens but Goode was the star of the piece with a display that McCall acknowledged was something else.

McCall said: "There were some outstanding individual performances, Alex has been very good over the past two months but today he was unbelievable as he looks much quicker.

"Strettle is playing as well as ever and Ashton's finish for his first try was something special."

McCall was also pleased with his side's overall performance at Allianz Park, which he said "has been coming for some time".

It might have been an even more convincing victory for the hosts had Connacht prop Nathan White been sent off in the first half, as McCall believes should have happened.

With Saracens only leading 13-6 just before half-time, White was sent to the sin-bin for stamping on Brad Barritt.

White appeared to make contact with Barritt's face and McCall was in no doubt that the front-rower should have been dismissed.

"I'm glad they remained with 15 players but it was a red card as it was exactly the same as last night (Ian Evans being dismissed for the Ospreys in Dublin). Fortunately Brad wasn't injured but that shouldn't be a determining factor," said McCall.

Connacht coach Pat Lam disagreed with McCall's assessment of the incident, though.

He said: "It was reckless but there was no intent and I think the TMO got it correct. It was frustrating as their player was clearly on the wrong side of the ruck."

Following White's departure, Saracens added a third try on the stroke of half-time through Schalk Brits to open up a 18-6 lead at the break.

The Aviva Premiership leaders then ran away with it in the second period, outscoring their opponents 46-0.

Lam said of his side's showing: "We know they are a top Premiership side but we were very disappointing as we missed tackles and dropped passes."

Those sentiments were echoed by Connacht full-back Gavin Duffy, who said: "I thought these days were behind us but today we were pulled round and bullied. The scoreboard doesn't lie and it was a really poor day for us."

Saracens now face a difficult away trip in the quarter-finals but McCall was still optimistic.

"We are not a top two or three European side but we are a top eight team. We can step up and learn from defeats at Clermont and Toulouse and can win away," said McCall, who also allayed any fears about Owen Farrell.

The England fly-half lasted only eight minutes as a second-half replacement for Charlie Hodgson before leaving the field but McCall said: "He had a nasty cut to the side of the head but he will be okay."

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