Mark McCall believes Saracens have work to do if they are to match last season’s success after a 35-3 Aviva Premiership Rugby victory over Worcester Warriors at the London Double Header.
Saracens and Worcester were poised at 6-3 at half-time, with Carl Hogg’s side defending admirably and the reigning Champions Cup and Aviva Premiership Rugby champions lacking their usual ruthlessness in possession.
The pulled away with a stunning second-half blitz; Schalk Burger, Alex Lozowski and Jamie George all scored before Ben Spencer sealed the bonus point with an outrageous individual try.
And despite the five-point win which sees them go top of the Aviva Premiership standings, he feels his charges have a long way to go.
“I actually thought our skill level wasn’t great as a team, we could have passed the ball a lot better than we did and we made a lot of errors with the ball – some of which was forced by Worcester, the rest was forced by ourselves and we will have to do a little bit of work on that,” McCall explained.
“Overall I am not too happy, I am happy we got five points, we’re always happy to win, but that was a hugely rusty performance.
“I thought we defended well for the whole game, so that is something to hang our hat on.
“We need to give Worcester a lot of credit in that first-half, they were really physical and made life hard for us with the ball and at the breakdown.
“A lot of people played well, but we just need to be more consistent across the game than we were.”
Hogg was unsurprisingly pleased with the way his charges handled a physical first-half against last season’s dominant side.
Ben Te’o and Dean Hammond both shone defensively, putting in key tackles that stifled any real Saracens momentum before the break.
But as they did so adeptly last season, they struck a killer blow just when it counted – England hooker George scoring from the back of a perfect driving maul five minutes into the second-half.
And Hogg feels an attritional first-half took its toll on his men, but is confident they can pick things up ahead of an M5 derby against Gloucester Rugby at Sixways in round two.
“6-3 at half-time sounds like a level contest, but the amount of defending we had to do in the first-half took its toll in the second,” Hogg said.
“We talked about trying to get a foothold in the start of the game and I think there were three or four opportunities in the first-half where we launched a play inside there half but weren’t quite as accurate as we should have been and so we didn’t get a chance to arrest their momentum and swing it in our favour.
“They are a very good side, the top end of Europe, and they squeeze teams in and that is what they did to us today.
“You have to be very accurate and I thought for the first 20 or 30 minutes, or composure inside our 22 to get out was excellent, Ryan Lamb and Jonny Arr did well just to keep us composed and get us out nice and clean.
“Saracens are the masters of putting pressure on, you end up kicking the ball back to them and they come back with a kick too.
“We knew that and I thought we weathered the storm well particularly in the first-half, but it took its toll in the second-half.”
Saracens: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch (Duncan Taylor, 57), Brad Barritt (Mike Ellery, 68), Sean Maitland; Alex Lozowski, Richard Wigglesworth (Ben Spencer, 56); Mako Vunipola (Richard Barrington, 57), Jamie George (Schalk Brits, 51), Petrus Du Plessis (Juan Figallo, 41), Maro Itoje, George Kruis (Jim Hamilton, 63), Jackson Wray (Michael Rhodes, 51), Schalk Burger, Billy Vunipola
Worcester Warriors: Jackson Willison; Dean Hammond, Wynand Olivier, Ben Te’o, Cooper Vuna (Perry Humphreys, 67); Ryan Lamb (Tom Heathcote, 57), Jonny Arr (Luke Baldwin, 61); Val Rapava Ruskin (Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 54), Niall Annett (Jaba Bregvadze, 50), Nick Schonert (James Johnston, 23), Tevita Cavubati (Christian Scotland-Williamson, 50), Darren Barry, Phil Dowson (Alafoti Faosiliva, 50), Marco Mama, GJ van Velze (C)
Tries: George, Lozowski, Burger, Spencer
Penalties: Lozowski 3
Conversions: Lozowski 3
Worcester Warriors 3
Referee: Matthew Carley
Aviva Premiership Rugby returns this weekend. For a full fixture list please click here