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McCall delighted with successful start on artificial pitch as well as atmosphere at new £24m home

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 18, 2013

Exeter's Ben Moon is tackled by Ernst Joubert of Saracens PINNACLE

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Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall welcomed a successful start to Aviva Premiership life at Allianz Park after Exeter Chiefs were defeated 31-11.

England prop Mako Vunipola scored two tries to finish as man of the match, while Charlie Hodgson and Matt Stevens also touched down in only the club's second try-scoring bonus-point win in 15 matches this season.

It was a vote of confidence for the artificial pitch designed specifically for rugby union and McCall was delighted with the occasion at Saracens' new £24 million ground in Barnet.

"It's great to start like that, scoring four tries," McCall said.

"It was a great atmosphere. We've all been to Vicarage Road over the last couple of years and it wasn't like that.

"There was a real atmosphere during the warm up and the crowd really got behind the team.

"It was a quick game and our players enjoyed it.

"They were saying in the changing room afterwards that they really enjoyed the experience.

"The pitch feels good and I don't think there was anything to be negative about. We didn't have reset scrums.

"It seemed to a faster game with more ball in hand than previously, so there's a lot to be positive about."

Between them fly-halves Hodgson and Gareth Steenson missed six shots at goal and 18 points in the first half and McCall admitted the poor success rate might be an idiosyncrasy of the surface.

"The kicking maybe takes some getting used to because the tee doesn't go down as far on that surface as it does on grass," he said.

The rampaging Vunipola, who played 70 minutes after appearing on the bench during England's Six Nations victories over Scotland and Ireland, carried the fight to Exeter throughout.

"Mako was magnificent. He wasn't just good in the loose, where he's as good as anyone, but he was good in the tight as well," McCall said.

"He's going to be a very, very, very, very special player. He's already a special player."

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