Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall was left frustrated after solid defending was ruined by ill-discipline in his side's narrow defeat to Exeter Chiefs.

Sarries were edged out by just three points at Sandy Park on Saturday afternoon, going down 18-15 despite the best efforts of Alex Lozowski who kicked five penalties.

But referee Luke Pearce punished them on four separate occasions for dissent, at one point two quickfire decisions against Billy Vunipola saw them marched back 20 metres.

Getting on the wrong side of the officials was crucial to the outcome, according to the Saracens boss.

“We were let down today by inaccuracy and ill-discipline,” McCall said. “We were marched back three times, which is not good enough.

“It’s not just frustrating, it’s highly costly.

“It cost us points and it cost us decisions later because you are on the wrong side of the referee and things you deserve you don’t get.

“Maro Itoje was over the ball a couple of times on the halfway line and we got nothing, which is probably because of how we had behaved earlier.”

Exeter’s Tom O’Flaherty and Luke Cowan-Dickie both scored tries to hand the 2019 champions only their second defeat since returning to the top flight in the summer.

The hosts fly-half Joe Simmonds added a conversion and two penalties which in the end proved crucial.

Neither teams’ attacks were particularly fluent on a tough day in Devon, but the Chiefs kept their mistakes to a minimum.

McCall also admitted that some of the key offenders in the defeat at Sandy Park apologised to their teammates immediately after the game.

He added: “I can’t put my finger on it. One or two of the players, which I won’t name, have already apologised to their team-mates afterwards because they recognise that it’s not what we need.

“Physically, we were great. Our collision work in defence was outstanding.

“Our defensive set towards the end of the game was special, but we want to be more than a physical team, and we didn’t use the ball well enough, especially in the first half.”

Despite the defeat Saracens remain second in the Gallagher Premiership Rugby table, with Exeter moving up into third spot just behind them.

They next play in the Premiership on Boxing Day, hosting Worcester Warriors at Stone X Stadium.