Mark McCall accepts Leinster the better side

Mark McCall looked back with pride on Saracens’ two-year reign as European titleholders but admitted his side’s grip on the Champions Cup was dislodged by a better Leinster team.

Mark McCall accepts Leinster the better side

Leinster had this quarter-final wrapped up with half an hour to play, ending a two-season unbeaten run in the competition.

McCall’s team looked a pale imitation of those all-conquering players who routed Munster here a year ago, as Leinster turned the screw in attack and held out against virtually everything the Londoners threw at them.

“I think they are outstanding,” Ulsterman McCall said of Leinster. “They were the best team in the pool stages. When we analysed them, there were not many weaknesses to find.

“They were good today. They had to defend for a long time and they did it really well. They’ve got some people on their team who can really hurt you on attack, as well, so they are a very good, all-round team.”

Sarries captain Brad Barritt credited Leinster with taking their chances better.

I think they took their opportunities well, where on the flip side, I think we entered their 22 five or six times and to only get three points out of all those opportunities was disappointing,” said Barritt.

“Having said that, huge congratulations to Leinster. As a playing group, we felt they were better on the day and were full quality for their victory today.”

McCall said Saracens had benefited in their twin European successes from players returning from a successful Six Nations campaign with England and he saw parallels with the positive effect Ireland’s Grand Slam had on Leinster.

“We had the luxury of our players coming back into European quarter-finals and being in great form, physically and emotionally. I’m sure Leinster benefited from that as well.”

Jonathan Sexton looks destined for time off after a bruising encounter. Sexton shipped heavy and late blows from a number of

opponents, with Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Richard Wigglesworth all stepping over the line.

“It was tough on Johnny because he had been played off the ball a few times in the first-half,” said Leo Cullen afterwards.

“It’s hard for him not to get frustrated, I’ll have a look back at the game, but there were three or four incidents when he got hit late off the ball.”

Luke McGrath was taken off with an ankle injury, which Cullen reckoned is probably the most serious of the bangs, while Fergus McFadden took a blow to his neck. But could Sean O’Brien return against Zebre?

“He’s not a million miles away,” said Cullen with a smile.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox