Mark McCall insisted the loyalty that kept Saracens from falling apart during the salary cap scandal was evident as they claimed a place in the Gallagher Premiership final with a 34-17 victory over Harlequins.
Saracens showed remarkable resilience to topple the league champions in their play-off at Stone X Stadium despite the yellow cards shown to Elliot Daly, Billy Vunipola and Alex Lozowski in a brutal final quarter.
It means they will be present at Twickenham for the showpiece next weekend in their first season back in the top flight after being relegated for repeated salary cap breaches.
“It’s been a tough two and half years and it was a problem of our own making,” McCall said.
“Mistakes were made, but 99 per cent of the people in the organisation weren’t responsible for what happened and that’s never talked about.
“Every one of them, staff and players, had a reason to leave and an excuse to go if they wanted, but none of them did. That level of loyalty probably saved the club to be honest.
“We saw out on the field against Harlequins where that loyalty comes from, that togetherness that exists. This is a special group of players and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Ben Earl scored three of Saracens’ five tries while Owen Farrell was in commanding form at fly-half as Quins lacked the firepower to break down a determined home defence.
“We played some good rugby and defended well when we had to. We spent the last 20 minutes with either 14 men or 13 men,” McCall said.
“To be down a man against an attack as good as Quins for that length of time is tough and showed the level of resolve, resilience and fight we have. We scrapped for everything and that’s the thing that always pleases us the most.”
Harlequins raced 12-3 ahead and then spent much of the final quarter attacking, but on this occasion they were unable to produce their customary fightback.
“Clearly we’re really gutted. We came in with high hopes and expectations of delivering a performance and getting to a final but clearly the scoreboard said no,” head coach Tabai Matson said.
“There were missed opportunities but I don’t want to bore you with them, I’d rather tip my hat to a very good team. We threw the kitchen sink at them and when they had 14 and 13 men they were courageous in their defence.
“We probably didn’t nail our stuff but you have to give them credit for delivering on the big occasion. When we reflect on this it’s going to be really key learnings when we sit on our beach towels with pebbles underneath it’s an opportunity missed.”
Matson said he had no objection to referee Luke Pearce issuing only yellow cards for the high tackles by Daly, Vunipola and Lozowski.
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