Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall admits Maro Itoje moved another step closer to an England cap after the 21-year-old helped inspire a dramatic comeback against Bath Rugby.
McCall’s men were 13-0 down at half-time but went on to score 19 unanswered points despite fierce Bath resistance for much of the match.
And though Itoje did not touch down himself, his fierce carry ultimately led to Schalk Brits’ try ten minutes before full-time.
Charlie Hodgson, who collected 14 points from the tee, then knocked over the penalty that put Saracens in front for the first time after Itoje won a penalty at the breakdown.
It was a resounding statement from the lock after England coach Eddie Jones decided to release him back to Saracens ahead of the Six Nations.
But McCall, who also reserved special praise for Brad Barritt, said: “If Maro keeps on playing like that, I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity. I thought he was really good in the second half, every carry made a difference.
“We were very composed at half time, Brad Barritt led the team magnificently. We didn’t think we played too badly in the first half. We just needed to pressurise them, use the wind and improve our set-piece.
“Once we got in front I thought we were magnificent, we had 15 minutes of almost perfect rugby.”
Bath had beaten Saracens in the set-piece for much of the match, but the introduction of USA prop Titi Lamositele just before the hour mark helped turn the tide.
“One of the turning points was when we brought Titi on,” he added. “Titi is 21 years old and plays tighthead for the USA, he comes on at loosehead and changes the game.”
Bath now go back to the drawing board after their sixth defeat in nine Aviva Premiership games, despite mounting a superb defensive shift at Allianz Park.
Rhys Priestland slotted eight points from the tee, including the conversion to Tom Homer’s early try, but Bath understandably tired later on in the match.
And head coach Mike Ford insists Bath, Aviva Premiership Rugby Finalists last year, have far from given up from making it into the semi-finals again this year.
“It’s tough because it’s small margins,” said Ford. “They put a lot of pressure on you and we failed to cope with that in the second half.
“I’m proud of the first half, proud of the performance, the boys got stuck in. We got a point, we now look forward
to Gloucester on Friday night.
There are 13 league games left for us, there’s another two before we reach half-way. We know what we have to accumulate to get to the top four and we’re going to go for it.
“There’s massive belief in the squad, a little bit more luck and we still think we can do it.”
Saracens: Ransom; Taylor, Bosch (Tompkins, 57), Barritt, Wyles; Hodgson, Wigglesworth (Spencer, 67); Barrington (Lamositele, 57), Brits, du Plessis, Itoje, Hamilton (Smith, 69), Rhodes (Brown, 40), Burger, Wray
Not used: Saunders, Thompson-Stringer, Mordt,
Bath: Homer; Rokoduguni, Banahan, Bowden (Clark, 60), Agulla; Priestland, Cook; Auterac (Lahiff, 19), Webber (Dunn, 68), Thomas (Wilson, 58), Ewels (Ellis, 58), Day, Garvey (Mercer, 72), Louw, Houston (Faosiliva, 65)
Not used: Evans
Penalties: Hodgson 4
Penalties: Priestland 2
Referee: Dean Richards