McCall warns Saracens as Wasps lurk

2016-04-17 10:02
Rugby ball (File)

London, April 16, 2016 (AFP) -Saracens boss Mark McCall said his Premiership leaders had received a "kick up the backside" after beating Harlequins 22-12 at Wembley on Saturday ahead of their European Challenge Cup semi-final against fellow English club Wasps next weekend.

Reigning Premiership champions Saracens scored three first-half tries in front of a London derby crowd of more than 80,000 but only added a solitary penalty from England's Owen Farrell in the second half.

By contrast, Wasps wing Christian Wade scored a record-equalling six tries in the one Premiership match as his side won 54-35 away to Worcester.

Victory saw Wasps shoot up into second place in the Premiership table and served notice of their attacking threat ahead of next Saturday's showdown with Saracens at Reading's Madejski Stadium.

A frustrated McCall said: "It wasn't about missing out on the bonus point, more about how we played. It was a patchy performance, but it is a kick up the backside for Wasps."

The Saracens director of rugby added: "This game and last weekend's against Northampton (a 29-20 European Challenge Cup quarter-final win) are below the standards we'd expect.

"Our penalty count was that of a losing team and a third of them came at scrum time, so that is something we'll have to fix for next week.

"We scrummed magnificently against Northampton last weekend and we were the opposite of that in this game.

"It's difficult to ask the players to keep fronting up week on week, but Wasps is a massive game and the players are already talking about it in the changing room."

The good news for Saracens on Saturday was that England wing Chris Ashton made it five tries in three matches since his return from suspension with a first-half double, while Grand Slam-winning lock George Kruis also crossed Quins' line.

At Sixways, Wade drew level with a record set by Saracens' Ryan Constable against Bedford back in 2000 by running in six tries.

"He's up there with the best," Wasps director of rugby Dai Young said of Wade. "He's deadly and I wouldn't swap him for anyone.

"It was a timely reminder from him that he's still about and shouldn't be forgotten for either the (second-string) Saxons or England tours this summer."

Frank Halai and Alex Lozowski, the son of former England centre Rob Lozowski, also scored tries for Wasps, with Elliot Daly and Ruaridh Jackson kicking three conversions apiece.

Leicester warmed up for their Champions Cup semi-final against France's Racing 92 with a 30-24 win over Northampton that all but ended their arch East Midlands rivals' hopes of a play-off place.

Defeat left fifth-placed Northampton seven points behind Leicester, currently fourth, with just two games of the regular league season remaining and only the top four going into the play-offs that will determine the eventual English title-winners.

Tries from hooker Harry Thacker, wing Vereniki Goneva and Freddie Burns were at the heart of Leicester's win, with fly-half Burns also kicking 15 points.

"I will have to pick the bones out of the performance, which probably wasn't brilliant from us, but three tries to two, we probably deserved to win the game in the end," said Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill.

Northampton No 8 Teimana Harrison and centre George Pisi both scored tries for the hots at Franklin's Gardens but it was another case of so near and yet so far for the Saints this season.

"I think, realistically, that's the top four out of reach this season," said Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

"We always keep fighting, but today summed up our season a little bit. We just weren't quite good enough."

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