Saracens boss Mark McCall praised Ben Earl after his two tries boosted their Gallagher Premiership semi-final chances in a 18-12 win over Sale Sharks. 

Back row Earl was pivotal in the physical contest at the AJ Bell Stadium, with just one point separating the sides at the interval. 

The England international went over for his first try just before the break, but Sharks fought back to gain a narrow advantage thanks to Rob du Preez’s reliable kicking from the tee.

But it was Earl's second touchdown that settled the cagey encounter and saw him awarded a well-deserved man of the match for the second week running. 

McCall said: “Ben's just getting better and better, and he's just been outstanding for us all season. 

“He had a great game today and has done for the past couple of weeks.” 

Despite du Preez scoring four penalties, the defeat for Sharks saw them miss a chance to move into the top four, while Saracens moved a step closer to Gallagher Premiership top four qualification and tightened their grip on second spot. 

The win was a welcome relief for McCall’s men after a gritty battle, particularly after losing 40-21 earlier in the week to Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Cup.  

The Londoners maintained their strong form of just one defeat in their past seven and will want to keep up their strength as they hope to have the chance of a home semi- final. 

McCall added: "Our team were together and fought for each other out there. That level of scrapping and fighting we needed and it was a good, hard-fought away win. 

“I thought we were disjointed and a bit individual in our actions last week and we wanted to get that unity and togetherness back tonight in what we did. I'm just really chuffed how we scrapped and fought our way through. 

“You have to fight through the tough moments when you make errors and put yourself under pressure.”