Mark McCall was delighted at the way Saracens were able to adapt to adversity after a thumping 50-12 win against Newcastle at Kingston Park.
The Premiership champions travelled to the north-east without a number of their England stars, who were rested after coming straight back in last week. They then lost their lineout caller and second‑row Callum Hunter‑Hill in the warm-up, with the back‑rower Ollie Stonham coming into the starting lineup out of position at the last minute. Despite that, Sarries overcame a slow start to wrap up the bonus point by half‑time and make it three wins in a row, to the delight of their director of rugby.
McCall said: “As a squad, to come up to Newcastle with some of the disruption we had in the week – Ollie Stonham came in, a young lad from our academy, and did a fantastic job. I thought we problem solved well on the field, we rolled our sleeves up and were relentless all throughout the game. It’s always the sign of a good squad, when people aren’t too precious and want to help the team as much as they can.”
George Ford orchestrates Premiership victory for clinical Sale at BristolRead more
Newcastle opened the scoring through Sebastian de Chaves but Saracens responded with four tries before half-time, Theo Dan crossing twice along with scores from Elliot Daly and Alex Lewington. Bryan Byrne crossed for Falcons shortly before the hour but Saracens then ran away with it, Tom Willis, Juan Martín González and Manu Vunipola rounding off a big win.
At Franklin’s Gardens, meanwhile, Northampton’s director of rugby, Phil Dowson, lavished praise on Fin Smith after the 21-year-old inspired them to secure a 34-19 win against Exeter.
Smith, who was named player of the match, was at the heart of everything for the home team and scored 14 points. The fly-half converted tries from Tommy Freeman, Curtis Langdon, Alex Mitchell and Fraser Dingwall, as well as adding two penalties, as Saints leapfrogged their rivals to move into the top four.
Fin Smith scored 14 points with the boot for Northampton in their victory against Exeter. Photograph: Patrick Khachfe/PPAUK/Shutterstock
“Fin was outstanding and I often forget he’s only 21,” Dowson said. “I think he is maturing all the time and the more he plays the better he gets. He’s tough and, when we were looking at recruiting for 10, it was one of the things that [head coach] Sam Vesty highlighted. We watched him make a shot on Teimana Harrison here and we thought then he can really defend. He’s a tough competitor.”
skip past newsletter promotion
Sign up to The Breakdown
Free weekly newsletter
The latest rugby union news and analysis, plus all the week’s action reviewed
after newsletter promotion
How do I sign up for sport breaking news alerts?
- Download the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for ‘The Guardian’.
- If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.
- In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.
- Turn on sport notifications.
Was this helpful?Thank you for your feedback.
Having come into the game as table-toppers following impressive wins against Saracens, Sale and Bristol, Exeter – who had Niall Armstrong shown a red card for a high boot to Smith’s face in the second half – were far from their best, claiming scant reward other than tries from Jacques Vermeulen, Scott Sio and Ethan Roots.
“Our individual errors killed us a little bit today, whereas Northampton did not make them,” the Exeter director of rugby, Rob Baxter, said.