Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, expressed his delight at his team's ability to overcome adversity after their commanding 50-12 victory against Newcastle at Kingston Park. The Premiership champions were without several key England players, who were rested after their recent international duties. In addition, they also suffered a setback during the warm-up when Callum Hunter-Hill, their lineout caller and second-row, was injured and replaced by Ollie Stonham, who was forced to play out of position at the last minute. Despite these challenges, Saracens displayed their resilience and adaptability, securing the bonus point by half-time and extending their winning streak to three matches.
Speaking about the team's performance, McCall praised the squad's response to the disruptions, particularly highlighting the impressive contribution of young academy player Ollie Stonham. He commended their ability to problem-solve on the field and their unwavering determination throughout the game. McCall viewed their ability to put the team's needs above individual considerations as a testament to the strength of the squad.
Newcastle initially took the lead through Sebastian de Chaves, but Saracens swiftly responded with four tries before half-time. Theo Dan scored twice, while Elliot Daly and Alex Lewington also crossed the try-line. Bryan Byrne managed to score for the Falcons just before the hour mark, but Saracens quickly regained control, with Tom Willis, Juan Martín González, and Manu Vunipola adding further tries to secure a convincing victory.
In another match, Northampton's director of rugby, Phil Dowson, heaped praise on 21-year-old Fin Smith, who played a pivotal role in their 34-19 win against Exeter. Smith, named the player of the match, showcased remarkable skills and contributed 14 points, including conversions for tries from Tommy Freeman, Curtis Langdon, Alex Mitchell, and Fraser Dingwall, as well as two penalties. Dowson highlighted Smith's maturity and toughness, emphasizing his defensive abilities and competitiveness.
The victory propelled Northampton into the top four, surpassing Exeter, who entered the game as table-toppers following impressive victories against Saracens, Sale, and Bristol. However, Exeter had a lackluster performance and struggled to capitalize on their opportunities, only managing tries from Jacques Vermeulen, Scott Sio, and Ethan Roots. Their frustrations were compounded when Niall Armstrong received a red card for a high boot to Smith's face in the second half.
Reflecting on his team's performance, Exeter director of rugby, Rob Baxter, acknowledged that individual errors were their downfall, contrasting with Northampton's error-free display. Baxter credited Northampton's ability to capitalize on their opponents' mistakes and emphasized the need for improvement within his own team.
In conclusion, both Saracens and Northampton showcased their resilience and adaptability in the face of various challenges. McCall and Dowson lauded the performances of their respective players, highlighting the squad's ability to overcome disruptions and individual errors. These victories solidified their positions in the league standings and emphasized their strengths as contenders in the Premiership.