Saracens 26-19 Bath, Aviva Premiership, January 8
McCall puzzled by scrum woe
January 8, 2012
Saracens hooker John Smit powers forward © PA Photos
Saracens boss Mark McCall admitted it would take "a greater man than me" to resolve the scrum problems scarring top-class rugby.
McCall was delighted with his team's hard-earned 26-19 victory over Bath on Sunday, but admitted that the game needs to solve a problem which leaves fans and players alike baffled.
Sarries prop Rhys Gill was yellow-carded by French referee Pascal Gauzere after the collapse of a 15th-minute scrum - but both coaches were left frustrated as no penalty try was forthcoming for Bath.
"You saw how good the game is when the scrums work, when things go well," he said."You also saw how frustrating it can become when they don't. It will take a greater man than me to sort it out."
Bath coach Martin Haag echoed those feelings as he said: "We should have been 14-0 up shortly before they made it 7-7 - because we were on their line and the scrum went down.
"The referee shouted for us to 'use it', yet he then carded Rhys Gill and we should have had a penalty try. It descended into a bit of a farce in the scrums, which is not unusual these days. You need to know that things will be consistent."
The match itself was dominated by a mixed day with the boot for Saracens' in-form centre Owen Farrell, who kicked 16 points but missed another 12 with four off-target penalties. Tries by skipper Steve Borthwick - with Gill in the sin-bin - and Chris Wyles ensured the champions closed the gap on table-topping Harlequins.
"I'm pleased because we played some very good running rugby against a Bath side who came here with their tails up after a good win last week, and who made a flying start," McCall said.
"So it was important that we fought back to equalise when down to 14 men for Gill's yellow card and the performances of Alex Goode, David Strettle - back to his electrifying best - Andy Saull and Steve Borthwick were especially pleasing.
"Steve has never given up on England and making a comeback. He is playing so well, yet is someone rarely mentioned in terms of the squad. If England came calling for his experience among what may be a young squad, he would never say no."
Chairman Nigel Wray anticipates an exodus of star names, even without Borthwick, when England's interim head coach Stuart Lancaster names his Six Nations squad - and while pleased for his players, he is not impressed by the system.
"As I have said before, the southern hemisphere must be laughing their heads off. They wouldn't dream of playing the Tri-Nations during their Super 15, wouldn't dream of coming here to play winter internationals during their domestic season," he said.
"And they wouldn't dream of receiving our international sides in the summer if it in any way clashed with, once again, their own domestic season. We, of course, do the opposite."
Bath left Vicarage Road with a bonus point thanks to a last-gasp penalty by Tom Heathcote - his third after replacing Stephen Donald, who scored his team's only try, converted it and added a penalty.
The match was marred by some half-time pushing and shoving in the tunnel, which was described by Haag as "about passion". He added: "Players and coaches sometimes flare up or disagree for a few seconds on something. But it's not an issue for anyone."
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