'End of an era' - Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall admitted that it was an end of era following their defeat in the semi-final of the Heineken Champions Cup against Racing 92.

The Sarries had a 15-9 lead by the end of the third quarter and looked on course to keep their hope of defending the title alive but Juan Imhoff's try with five minutes left in the game ensured Racing 92 completed a four-point win.

Saracens will also face automatic relegation at the end of the ongoing Gallagher Premiership season for a series of salary cap breaches and will take on Worcester and Bath in the final two rounds.

"In many ways it is the end of an era," said director of rugby McCall. "But we showed all the qualities and characteristics we need on a new journey.

"This has been an incredible period for us in the last five seasons. This was our 23rd knock-out game in either Europe or the Premiership and we've won 19 of those games, which is an incredible record.

"We put our heart and soul into that game and we can be proud of the players. They are a special group."

The result also meant Saracens will be playing in the Challenge Cup next season despite being the winners of Champions Cup three times in the last five seasons. England and Saracens hooker Jamie George, who is one of the player to remain with the club despite the relegation said he is proud of the team's efforts despite a tough season.

"The element of the unknown is pretty horrendous," said George.

"The way we saw it was that it was our last chance to compete for a little while.

"We wanted to finish it off and I'm gutted, I'm not going to lie. But at the same time I'm also incredibly proud.

"A lot of people have talked rubbish about us for a long time. But if you look at the squad here probably our best player was Dom Morris, and if you're telling me we're breaking the salary cap that's an interesting one.

"I don't know what we're going to be facing, but the young players coming through are hugely motivated and that is the exciting thing for me."