Mark McCall believes Will Fraser can hold his head high after the fit-again flanker posted another impressive performance since his return from injury in Saracens’ 32-7 European Rugby Champions Cup victory over Toulouse.
It was a day on which the rugby community showed unity in the wake of the Paris terror attacks some 24 hours earlier, with a minute’s silence and La Marseillaise observed at Allianz Park before the game.
Owen Farrell kicked five first-half penalties and a conversion – and Mako Vunipola and Chris Wyles also touched down – as Saracens sped to a 27-0 lead by half-time.
Wyles wasted no time in completing his try-double after the break, but Toulouse dug in and denied Saracens a bonus point.
Still, the likes of Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Jamie George and openside flanker Fraser all impressed in a cohesive performance from the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders – leaving McCall hailing a job well done.
"Given the fact that Will missed more or less ten months of rugby before his first Premiership game this season, every game he has got a little bit better," McCall said.
"He went toe to toe with (Thierry) Dusautoir and he was as good as any back-row out there.
"It's slowly but surely with Will. Everyone knows his quality. We have just got to keep him healthy and, fingers crossed, we can do that."
"We have got to be delighted with how we played in that first half. I thought it was outstanding.
In contrast, Northampton Saints flanker Tom Wood admits his side’s nerve-jangling 15-11 victory over Scarlets was too close for comfort.
Ken Pisi scored an early converted try for Saints but Steve Shingler struck two penalties and Gareth Davies also barged over the whitewash to keep Franklin’s Gardens on tenterhooks.
Alex Waller’s 54th-minute try proved decisive however, and JJ Hanrahan later on kicked a penalty to make the result secure.
"We should have pulled clear earlier as we missed key opportunities,” said Wood.
"It was nail-biting and could easily have gone against us. We were lucky to get away with it but we showed a lot of fight although there's plenty to work on."
Gloucester Rugby’s defence of the European Rugby Challenge Cup got off to a fine start though the bonus-point try never came in a 23-10 triumph over Zebre.
Henry Purdy, Ross Moriarty and Steve McColl all powered over in the first half but to their credit, their Italian opponents never buckled and earned a penalty try.
And London Irish may be winless in Aviva Premiership Rugby to date but they secured a morale-boosting victory over Agen, running in eight tries to show they are not to be taken lightly in Europe.
The try-bonus point was secured before half-time after Gerard Ellis (2), Joe Trayfoot and Johnny Williams efforts.
They never looked like slowing down after the break either – Alex Lewington grabbing a try-double while Rob McCusker and British & Irish Lions winger Sean Maitland also dotted down.
Worcester Warriors have Ryan Lamb’s boot to thank for making the afternoon an easier one, his four first-half penalties in difficult conditions – added to a late Ben Howard try – clinching a 19-3 triumph over La Rochelle.
Saracens 32 Toulouse 7
Tries: Vunipola, Wyles 2
Penalties: Farrell 5
Referee: George Clancy
Northampton Saints 15 Scarlets 11
Tries: K Pisi, Waller
Tries: G Davies
Penalties: Shingler 2
Referee: Roman Poite
Worcester Warriors 19 La Rochelle 3
Penalties: Lamb 4
Referee: Dudley Phillips
Gloucester Rugby 23 Zebre 10
Tries: Purdy, Moriarty, McColl
Penalties: Burns 2
Referee: Andy Brace
London Irish 48 Agen 10
Tries: Williams, Ellis 2, Trayfoot, Lewington 2, McCusker, Maitland
Conversions: Noakes 4
Referee: Gary Conway