Saracens boss McCall admits Quins clash ‘a bridge too far’ for fallen champions

Mark McCall believes the uncertainty surrounding his players’ futures disrupted their concentration as Saracens were thrashed 41-14 at Harlequins.

The defending Premiership champions will be playing Championship rugby next season after being automatically relegated following multiple salary cap breaches.

With the future of each player up in the air as the club moves to reduce the wage bill, Saracens director of rugby McCall admits they struggled to focus at the Stoop, where they were blown apart by Quins in their first league match since relegation.

Danny Care scored the first of Harlequins six tries against Saracens
Danny Care scored the first of Harlequins six tries against Saracens (Steven Paston/PA)

Cadan Murley crossed for two tries while Danny Care, Gabriel Ibitoye, Paul Lasike and Martin Landajo all went in for one each for the hosts.

“It is quite difficult to focus on a game as big as this and against a Quins side who played as well as they did. After 19 weeks, this was a bridge too far for us,” McCall said.

“I don’t think what happened today was reflective of how this team has done in the last few weeks. That team beat Leicester at Welford Road and Gloucester at Kingsholm.

“I think this game is the worst you will see of us. We hope to be far more competitive than that for the rest of the season. It’s just that things are still fresh and raw.

“A lot of directors of rugby have said it has been a long 19 weeks. It has been longer for us, I can promise you that.

“This has been the most difficult week because when the original decision was made, there was a strong feeling in the group that we wouldn’t get relegated.

“But the news last week that we were and all the repercussions that have come this week have made it the toughest and brought a lot of anxiety about people’s personal situations and what they will do next.”

Harlequins flew out of the blocks at the Stoop, with Care dotting down within two minutes following a rampaging run by number eight Alex Dombrandt.

Murley bagged his two tries by the half-hour mark, before Alex Lozowski replied for Saracens just prior to the break.

But Quins hit the accelerator again in the second half, with Ibitoye and Lasike touching down within 10 minutes of the re-start.

Dom Morris capped his Saracens debut with a try before Quins replacement Landajo walked in unopposed after intercepting a pass.

Cadan Murley
Cadan Murley scored twice against the fallen champions (Steven Paston/PA)

“I thought it was a really good performance,” said Quins director of rugby Paul Gustard.

“In the last two weeks in Europe, we have played pretty well and we knew we needed to get a result here. Four points was critical and five is a real bonus for us.

“We just tried to focus on the 15 v 15. There is nothing else we can control. We got the result we wanted and the rest around the match is smoke and mirrors.”

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