Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall picked out back rower Joel Conlon as the stand-out player in his side’s 29-18 victory over Sale Sharks on Saturday.
The victory was Saracens’ first in the Aviva Premiership Rugby since January 1 but without a try bonus point they found themselves leapfrogged by Exeter Chiefs in the league table.
The Allianz Park outfit had suffered successive defeats to Gloucester Rugby and Worcester Warriors coming into the game but tries from Duncan Taylor, Chris Ashton and Nathan Earle secured the win.
And McCall highlighted the defensive ability of Conlon, as well as No. 8 Jackson Wray, as the reigning champions got back to winning ways.
“Joel (Conlon) has been a bit injury plagued since he came up from Exeter,” he said.
“When we watched him play for England Under-20s we knew he was an outstanding player, he instinctively gets the game, has always been a great carrier.
Fantastic character by the team!
Thanks to all the @Saracens supporters for their support. Great atmosphere again.
Onto the next one👍
— Brad Barritt (@bradbarritt) February 25, 2017
“I thought he defended superbly as a seven out there today, he just needed a chance and he got his chance and he took his chance which is great.
“I thought we defended magnificently out there today, Brad Barritt at the forefront of everything – some of his early collisions set the tone for the match.
“Jackson Wray was magnificent out there, a real shining light. How physical he was with his carrying, how physical he was with his defence, he looked like an international player out there.
“We’ve got a really tough game against Newcastle (next) who are looking pretty formidable, again a team with no international players away, but we’ll be buoyed by what happened today.
“If we show that kind of effort, and skill as well, and how we execute in attack we’ll give Newcastle a good game.”
— Kelly Brown (@kellydrbrown) February 25, 2017
The defeat ended a run of five straight victories in all competitions for Sale Sharks who saw Magnus Lund and Cameron Neild cross for tries either side of half-time.
But director of rugby Steve Diamond conceded his team had been beaten by the more physical and intelligent side on the day at Allianz Park.
He said: “We were out-gunned and out-streetwised by Saracens. As you know, coming to this place, if you give them opportunities, they will take them.
“But in the second-half, we did really well. There were a couple of errors and a couple of decisions didn’t go our way but that’s the way it goes.
“We have had a good couple of months and I thought we might have been good enough to get a bonus point but we were just weren’t.”
Shame about the result but great to see these boys make the trip 😘 @… https://t.co/AZ5W3Z7bVq
— George Nott (@GeorgeNott1) February 25, 2017
Saracens: Taylor; Ashton, Bosch, Barritt (capt), Earle; Lozowski, Wigglesworth; Lamositele, Brits, Figallo, Rhodes, Hamilton, Brown, Conlon, Wray.
Replacements: Saunders, Barrington, Du Plessis, Flanagan, Vunisa, Spencer, Malins, Gallagher.
Sale Sharks: Haley; Solomona, Addison (capt), Jennings, Charnley; James, Phillips; Harrison, Webber, Aulika, Evans, Nott, Ioane, Lund, Beaumont.
Replacements: Nield, Flynn, Longbottom, T Curry, Seymour, Stringer, MacGinty, Leota.
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Tries: Taylor, Ashton, Earle
Pens: Lozowski 4
Tries: Lund, Neild
Pens: Addison, MacGinty