Sarries staying upbeat despite double defeat

SARACENS may be reeling from a double dose of final misery but director of rugby Mark McCall insists their season has still been one to remember.

Saturday’s nail-biting 24-20 extra-time loss to Northampton Saints in the Aviva Premiership Rugby showpiece followed hot on the heels of the Heineken Cup final disappointment against Toulon a week earlier.

It leaves McCall and Sarries – who set a regular season Premiership points’ total record of 87 – empty-handed when it comes to silverware.

But Northern Irishman McCall says they have plenty to cheer despite failing to add to their 2011 Aviva Premiership title.

“It’s been a brilliant season for us,” said McCall. “There are two competitions that we’re interested in, the Heineken Cup and this competition. This was our fourth final in five years and we had seven semi-finals in those two competitions.

“We talk about consistency a lot and we brought that. I know this group of players and I know this will be painful but it won’t be a set-back because a set-back only occurs if you’re less together, less tight, less hungry to improve. I think we’ve definitely improved in the last 12 months ­– the evidence is there for everyone to see – and I’m sure we’ll kick on from this as well.”

Saints led 7-6 at the break at Twickenham on Saturday through Ben Foden’s converted try, Owen Farrell replying with two penalties.

Farrell added a further penalty before George Pisi crossed for Northampton’s second converted try.

Marcelo Bosch levelled the scores but Charlie Hodgson’s kick hit the post to send the game into extra time.

Stephen Myler and Hodgson traded early penalties in the first half of the extra 20 minutes but Sarries edged ahead through the boot of Hodgson.

However, intense Northampton pressure eventually told, with replacement Alex Waller barging over under the posts to secure the Saints’ first Aviva Premiership title.