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Itoje, Vunipola and Farrell singled out after Saracens win

By PA
Maro Itoje /PA

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Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall hailed the improved performance of his side after they blew away Gloucester at Kingsholm to reach the European Challenge Cup semi-finals with a 44-15 victory.

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There they will meet the winners of Sunday’s fixture between Toulon and London Irish and whichever team progresses will face a revved-up Saracens, who are intent on collecting some silverware after their enforced absence from European competition last season.

Gloucester held no answers to an impressive all-round effort from the Londoners and were outscored by five tries to two.

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Saracens’ tries came from Aled Davies, Maro Itoje, Jamie George, Duncan Taylor and Nick Tompkins, with Owen Farrell converting all five and adding three penalties.

Gloucester touched down through Jack Singleton and Louis Rees-Zammit. There was also a conversion from Billy Twelvetrees and a penalty from Adam Hastings.

“This was a big step forward from where we have been,” said McCall. “The atmosphere was terrific and vastly different from the game at Worcester last week.

“Most of the areas of our game were really strong and we generally capitalised when we set up opportunities.

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“Inevitably good players relish big knockout games. Billy Vunipola had an incredible first 15-20 minutes as his ball-carrying was a different level.

“Big Maro (Itoje) was back to near his best and Owen Farrell led the team magnificently.

“The next two weeks are a crucial part of a season. We have a tough semi-final in Europe followed by a home game with Northampton, which we need to win to ensure a home semi-final in the play-offs.”

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It was a different emotion in the opposition camp as Gloucester were never at the races. Tight 50-50 calls went against them as they picked up two yellow cards which, coupled with a malfunctioning line-out, did not help their cause.

The manner of the defeat will also cause them considerable concern ahead of their last two games in the Gallagher Premiership, which will determine their play-off fate.

They could not face two more difficult fixtures, taking on Harlequins at Twickenham before Saracens return to Kingsholm for the final game on June 4.

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Head coach George Skivington said: “The boys learnt some massive lessons out there tonight, but Saracens have done this 50 times or more before, so it was no surprise.

“There was lots of good stuff from us in terms of effort, but our ill-discipline was the key issue.

“We gave away too many simple penalties, especially early in the second half, which made it too easy for them.

“Our line-out was also a problem as they rattled us and got in our faces.”

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