Saracens' harsh lesson has Henson limping

Leinster 43 Saracens 20
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The Independent Online

Saracens' new director of rugby Mark McCall has admitted his side have a long way to go if they are to join Europe's elite after his team were dismantled by Leinster, who booked a place in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals with the win.

Saracens were optimistic at the interval after going in 22-12 down thanks to two quick-fire tries from James Short and Kelly Brown but Leinster produced a devastating second-half performance.

"We were taught some harsh lessons by a quality side. We're pretty new to the Heineken Cup and playing in this group has been a steep learning curve," McCall said. "We want to be up there with the likes of Leinster and Munster but this can be an unforgiving competition and we have a long way to go.

McCall was also left counting the cost of the heavy defeat with Gavin Henson and Steve Borthwick included in a worrying number of injuries picked up on Saturday. "We've got a bit of a casualty list at the moment," McCall added. "Gavin's got a calf injury, we don't know the extent of it yet and he will go for a scan. Steve Borthwick has an AC joint injury and also needs a scan while Dave Strettle, Hugh Vyvyan and Tagicakibau also had to come off."

Although Saracens had no chance of reaching the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, they went into the game hoping to restore some pride. But they met a fired-up Leinster side who knew they could seal their quarter-final place with a bonus-point win.

They hit the ground running and it took them just five minutes to score the game's first try through Sean O'Brien. That was soon followed up when Dominic Ryan crashed over.

It was looking ominous for McCall's men but Short dragged them back into it with an opportunistic try before Leinster hit back with a Jonathan Sexton penalty. Moments later, Saracens responded when Brown finished off a dazzling break to add a second try, but their resurgence was short-lived, with Leinster again seizing the momentum.

Ryan crossed for his second try on the stroke of half-time and 10 minutes into the second-half Fergus McFadden clinched the crucial bonus-point try. From there, Leinster ran away with it with tries from Isa Nacewa and Eoin O'Malley before Nils Mordt grabbed a late consolation for Saracens.

Despite the defeat, Brown reckons that Saracens can take confidence from the game, despite coming up short in some areas, and kick on in the remainder of the season. "The result was disappointing but we played some good stuff and scored three good tries," he said. "But we have to move on, learn our lessons and continue striving to improve and win every game we play. We can take confidence from the fact we scored three tries against a very good team."


Leinster: Tries O'Brien, Ryan (2), McFadden, Nacewa, O'Malley; Conversions Sexton (5) ; Penalty Sexton.

Saracens: Tries Short; Brown N Mordt; Conversions Farrell; Penalty Farrell.

Leinster: I Nacewa, S Horgan (O'Malley, 60), B O'Driscoll, F McFadden, J Sexton (I Magigan, 69), E Reddan (I Boss, 66), C Healy (Van der Merwe, 66), R Strauss, M Ross (C Newland, 66), L Cullen (Capt), N Hines (D Toner, 60), D Ryan, S Jennings (K McLaughlin, 66), S O'Brien.

Saracens: N Mordt, D Strettle (N Cato, 61), M Tagicakibau (G Henson, 34; J Saunders, 67), B Barritt, J Short, O Farrell, R Wigglesworth (N de Kock, 52), R Gill, S Brits (J George, 66), C Nieto (P Du Plessis, 61), S Borthwick (Capt), H Vyvyan (H Smith, 40), K Brown, A Saull (J Melck, 52), E Joubert.

Referee: R Poite (France)