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McCall hails discarded England trio as Richards claims Farrell 'in ref's ear'

By PA
Owen Farrell /PA

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Mark McCall praised his trio of discarded England forwards after they inspired Saracens to a bonus-point 37-23 victory over Newcastle at StoneX Stadium.

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The five-time Gallagher Premiership champions were trailing 17-3 after half an hour but they fought back, with Jamie George and Mako Vunipola scoring third-quarter tries to place them in control.

Billy Vunipola then crossed from close range in injury time to secure the bonus point and complete their redemption from a dismal start full of errors.

Making it all the sweeter for Saracens’ try-scoring forwards was their recent omission from England’s training squad for the autumn series that begins against Tonga on November 6.

“I think Billy has played well in all three games this season,” director of rugby McCall said.

“It was Mako’s first game since the Lions tour and he was excellent and Jamie was outstanding – the more he plays, the more Mako plays – the better they will be.

“Our set-piece got on top of them in the second half and a lot of the access to their goalline that we got was because of a lot of their good work.”

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Asked if they were spurred on by being overlooked by Eddie Jones, McCall replied: “Of course, but they are motivated players anyway.

“What we see during the training weeks is what we have seen over the last 10 years.

“They are all desperate to get back into it.”

Newcastle boss Dean Richards highlighted Owen Farrell’s influence with Ian Tempest as playing a role in the game, although at one point the referee felt compelled to remind England’s captain that he was referee.

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Farrell spent much of the first half sparring with Falcons players and in heated discussions with Tempest, but once he settled down he was able to kick 15 points.

“When the momentum and the referee got on to our backs a little bit, it’s about understanding that street-wiseness and how to change perception and we didn’t do that,” Richards said.

“Owen Farrell was in his ear the whole time and with him being in his ear the whole time it changed the momentum of the game.

“There was a passage of play where they went off their feet twice in a ruck.

“There were three offences they committed and then we committed a very minor one on the far side, but he penalised us.

“It’s up to us how to learn to change the referee’s perception of what’s going on and the momentum of the game. You do that by being squeaky clean and highlighting what they’re doing.

“The intensity was there from us right from the off. We didn’t come here to lose, we came here to win.

“When it was obvious we weren’t going to win, there was the opportunity for the bonus point which was taken away from us at the end. It’s disappointing but I felt we gave a good showing of ourselves.

“But for a few bounces of the ball and refereeing decisions going our way we’d probably have come back with something.”

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