Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall singled out Ben Spencer for special praise after seeing off Newcastle Falcons in a tight affair to go second in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
David Strettle’s sixth try of the season and the reliable boot of Charlie Hodgson gave Saracens a slim lead at the break, after Andy Saull and Alesana Tuilagi had each scored for the Falcons.
Newcastle shot into a second-half lead after Will Welch went over, but replacement Spencer kept his cool to convert three penalties after taking over the injured Hodgson’s duties from the tee.
McCall was pleased to see his side triumph despite not performing to their full potential – and keen to give Spencer specific credit for his match-winning contribution.
He said: “That was massive for us, today wasn’t really a good performance but it’s very important that we got the points.
“We had a lot missing today and to lose both Charlie Hodgson and (Neil) De Kock at the same time was a huge blow. I thought the two half-backs were outstanding, a special mention for Ben Spencer for controlling the game the way he did.
“Ben has been the most patient man at the club because he’s behind many, he doesn’t complain, he works unbelievably hard and having seen examples of people who have waited for the chance and are now playing every week.
“Considering we were in their final third for 70 per cent of the game, I think our attack was a bit blunt and it’s disappointing that Newcastle scored three times off three attacks, disappointing that our mall wasn’t better.”
The result sees Falcons drop beneath London Irish to 11th in the table and leaves them without a league win since mid-January, against London Welsh.
Dean Richards, the Falcons director of rugby, felt his side were worthy of a victory, but thought their decision-making let them down.
He said: “Our first phase didn’t work that well today especially at the line out. Our decision-making let us down, we know what works and what doesn’t so we should have stuck with what did.
“We scored three tries to Saracens’ one but our poor decision-making meant that we spent the majority of the second-half in our in own half and made it very difficult to get out.
“We should have won today, that’s the problem. We have the winning mentality but little things make a big difference in this game and I think for us today if we would have had 20 per cent more ball we would have won today.
“I think there are definitely positives to take, I think our defence was outstanding, I thought the boys were up for it and brave and our tries were really well taken.”
Saracens: Ransom; Wyles, Bosch, Barritt, Strettle; Hodgson (Spencer 33), De Kock (Mordt); Gill (Barrington 48), George, Du Plessis (Figallo 48), Itoje, Hargreaves, De Jager (Hamilton 48), Burger, Wray
Replacements not used: Sharman, Hankin, Streather
Newcastle Falcons: Tait; Sinoti, Powell, Socino, Tuilagi; Catterick, Blair (Tipuna 60); Vickers, Lawson, Orlandi, Thompson (Green 62), Barrow, Welch, Saull, Wilson
Replacements not used: Hawkins, Rogers, Irving , York, Clegg
Penalties: Hodgson 2, Spencer 3
Tries: Saull, Tuilagi, Welch
Referee: Andrew Small
Tickets for the Aviva Premiership Rugby final are on sale. Click here to snap one up: premiershiprugby.com/final