Saracens enjoy Goode times ahead of Champions Cup final

London (AFP) –


Saracens boss Mark McCall praised the performance of England full-back Alex Goode as the Premiership leaders warmed up for next week's European Champions Cup final with a 43-19 win away to Worcester on Saturday.

Victory saw the London club, bidding for a domestic and continental double, finish top of the Premiership regular season standings and set up a home semi-final against fourth-placed Leicester.

Saracens were 14-7 down against Worcester but, inspired by Goode, scored three first-half tries.

"Alex was rested last week but he was outstanding today and he's been the best full-back in England for some time," said McCall, whose side scored six tries in all including a hat-trick for wing Chris Ashton.

Several Saracens stars spent much of the season on international duty helping England win the Six Nations, with goalkicker Owen Farrell, the Vunipola brothers, Billy and Mako, plus locks George Kruis and Maro Itoje all key members of Eddie Jones's grand slam-winning side.

"To get 80 points, without our internationals (who were) away for such a long period is a tremendous achievement but the best is yet to come as we have a young squad," said McCall.

The only disappointment for Saracens was an injury to scrum-half Neil de Kock that threatens his participation in next weekend's Champions Cup final against Parisian club Racing 92 in Lyon.

- Electric Nowell -

Ashton wasn't the only England wing to score a hat-trick on Saturday.

Grand slam-winner Jack Nowell ran in three tries as Exeter finished third with a crushing 62-24 win away to Harlequins.

Second-placed Exeter will now face Wasps -- who beat them in a thrilling Champions Cup quarter-final -- in the May 21st Premiership semi-finals, with the winners going on to meet either Saracens or Leicester in the May 28 final at Twickenham.

Nowell's performance, which helped give Exeter a home semi-final, was all the more impressive as he was nursing a hamstring strain in addition to a longstanding knee problem.

"Jack Nowell looked absolutely electric and that was on one-and-a-half legs really," said Exeter coach Rob Baxter.

Defeat meant London club Harlequins must win Friday's second-tier European Challenge Cup final against French club Montpellier in Lyon to book their place in next season's Champions Cup.

"Between now and next Friday no one will give us a chance," said outgoing Harlequins boss Conor O'Shea, who takes over as Italy coach in June.

"It's gut-wrenching to see a team play so far below what they have and they can. That's the hard part."

Wasps ended the regular season in third place after a convincing 38-12 win over already-relegated London Irish.

"I'm not disappointed that we've got to go to Exeter," said Wasps coach Dai Young.

"Exeter deserve to be second as they've beaten us twice in the league and they've been up there all season.

"Sandy Park will be a massive challenge for us but we'll be totally focussed and it's a challenge we believe we can overcome if we get things right."

Leicester will head into the play-offs on the back of a 38-27 loss at Bath but coach Richard Cockerill was not too concerned after resting several first-team players.

"Our game's in good shape and we were able to rest bodies today," said Cockerill. "

"We're in our 12th play-offs on the trot and 10 of those have been Grand Finals. We're a strong club with a strong history.

"Sometimes you get beaten -- but we're still in a semi-final."