It will take more than a trip up to the Scottish capital for Saracens to truly prove their worth on the European stage – and to shoot down those critics who have them pegged as a unit with just a singular dimension. No sooner had the 2011 English champions cleared their round one pool hurdle in the Heineken Cup, bagging a bonus point on the road with a 45-0 win against Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Saturday, than Mark McCall, their director of rugby, was turning his attention to a battle that will be closer to Waterloo in at least one respect.
The Sarries might have succeeded where all continental visitors failed last season but the Edinburgh side to whom they subjected a five-try massacre was a tame, shambolic shadow of the dynamic brigade who beat all comers to their home patch – Toulouse included – en route to the semi-finals of Europe's premier club competition. It promises to be different at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels – up the road from the scene of the 1815 England v France epic – when Saracens play their opening Pool One "home" contest against Racing Métro this coming Saturday, having opted to play the game in Belgium.
"We've got a difficult game next week," McCall said. "Racing beat Munster in their opener, so it's a pivotal game in the group. But this is a good start for us. The history of this competition tells you that away wins are vitally important and to get one win with a bonus point is obviously a huge boost to us."
It was another good day for Sarries' thirtysomething fly-half pivot, Charlie Hodgson, who racked up a quarter-century of points – courtesy of a late charge-down try, four conversions and four penalties. There was much else to admire, though. There was the deft back-of-the-hand offload with which Brad Barritt furnished the opening score for his centre partner Joel Tomkins, the rapier combination between Owen Farrell and Chris Ashton for the second try on the hour and some razor-sharp interplay from Ashton, Hodgson, Barritt and full-back Alex Goode in the final quarter.
The wound of what was a record margin of defeat at home in the Heineken Cup for Edinburgh was self-inflicted in large part, too. As Michael Bradley, McCall's opposite number and former Ireland team-mate, lamented: "We couldn't have played any worse. We couldn't pass the ball from A to B."
Unlike Saracens, who zipped the ball with clinical precision from A to Z all afternoon, playing in glorious 3D. "We want to score tries and we want to be positive," McCall said, when asked about those "one-dimensional" jibes. "Against a good team like Edinburgh you've got to build pressure and I thought Steve Borthwick was magnificent today. He really got into their line-out and when you don't have a base to play from, it's very difficult."
Saracens: Tries Tomkins, Farrell, Ashton, Goode, Hodgson; Cons Hodgson 4; Pens Hodgson 4.
Edinburgh: T Brown; L Jones, N De Luca, M Scott, T Visser (D Fife, 40); G Laidlaw (capt, H Leonard, 40), R Rees (C Leck, 69); J Yapp (R Hislop, 69), R Ford (A Titterell, 61), W Nel (G Cross, 61), G Gilchrist, S Cox (R McAlpine, 77), D Denton (N Talei, 61), R Rennie, S McInally.Saracens: A Goode; C Ashton, J Tomkins (O Farrell, 60), B Barritt, D Strettle (C Wyles, 67); C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth (N De Kock, 51); M Vuinipola (R Gil, 59), S Brits (J Smit, 66), M Stevens (P Du Plessis, 67), S Borthwick (capt), M Botha (G Kruis, 59), K Brown, W Fraser (J Smit, 45-55; A Saul, 56), J Wray.
Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).Reuse content