Mark McCall says Saracens’ battling spirit and ‘grit’ were the crucial components of their 30-6 win over Northampton Saints as they started the new year in style at Franklin’s Gardens.

Alex Lozowski, Tom Woolstencroft and Maro Itoje all scored for the visitors to ensure Saracens remain second in the Gallagher Premiership table – and well positioned for a home semi-final. 

A tetchy first half saw the scores level at 6-6 at the break, but Saracens flexed their muscles in a truly dominant second half to rack up 24 unanswered points and return back to London three points ahead of their local rivals Harlequins, who also won away at Gloucester. 

And McCall, 54, said: "We showed a lot of fight, grit and resolve and we had to tweak a few things in our kicking game and that allowed the rest of our game to lift.

"We had a lot more energy in defence, we attacked a lot better in the second half and the set-piece went to a different level.  

“It was just a really good, hard-fought away win.”

Lozowski starred for the five-time Gallagher Premiership champions, scoring 20 points, including their first try, before Woolstencroft and Itoje crossed the white line late on in an impressive second half.

Saracens’ recent form has perhaps been even more impressive considering they are without their talismanic captain and fly-half Owen Farrell, who suffered an ankle injury in England’s 32-15 win over Australia in the Autumn Nations Series. 

It is that fight and togetherness, which has been apparent in the Saracens squad for a number of years now, that has made adjusting to playing without Farrell seem easy, something that has particularly pleased Saracens director of rugby McCall. 

The scoreline suggests that things went Saracens’ way for 80 minutes, but in reality, things were very different in what was a tough day for the ‘wolfpack’ defence, who came through unscathed against a classy Northampton outfit. 
And that defensive resilience is another thing that pleased McCall, whose side sit nine points adrift of unbeaten Leicester Tigers at the top of the Gallagher Premiership table.
He added: "When you're under the pump as we were, in front of a great crowd as Northampton have, in your 22 as often as we were, you need your senior players to step up.
“I thought across the board ours did. I thought Maro had a big game."