SARACENS (23) vs SALE (10)
SARACENS boss Mark McCall predicted a much-improved European campaign after seeing his side close to within four points of Premiership leaders Harlequins with a seventh successive league win.
Tries from England pair David Strettle and Matt Stevens and the reliable boot of young fly-half Owen Farrell eased Sarries to a clinical victory blighted only slightly by two late, unconverted Sale tries.
It means the domestic champions go into the weekend’s first Heineken Cup fixtures on a roll and fuels director of rugby McCall’s belief they can improve on last season’s disappointing showing in the competition.
“We learned lessons very quickly during last season’s Heineken Cup and, hopefully we haven’t got the same failings we had back then,” he said.
“I believe we are capable of having a good impact on the Heineken Cup and that we have the strength and quality within the squad to take advantage of last season’s experiences. We open our Heineken programme at home to Benetton Treviso next Sunday and there is always a sense of anticipation when this competition comes around.”
McCall singled out former England captain Steve Borthwick for praise and predicted the lock would spearhead the club’s renewed assault on Europe.
“I believe Steve’s form is the best he has enjoyed in the past two and a half years,” McCall added. “His impact on and off the field, his leadership and his form as a lock forward are all magnificent. Against Sale he was a big factor in our success against their lineout and in Europe we could not be led by a better skipper.”
PARTY POOPERS | Saints ruin Edwards’ day
WASPS slipped to a 24-13 defeat at home to Northampton in coach Shaun Edwards’ last match with the London club. Saints props Brian Mujati (above) and Soane Tonga’uiha scored the tries and Ryan Lamb kicked 14 points to lift the visitors to sixth in the Premiership. Riki Flutey and Ross Filipo went over for Wasps, who are eighth in the table. Edwards has been linked with an England role.