Mark McCall rued Saracens’ lack of composure as they fell to a first Gallagher Premiership defeat when edged 29-20 by London Irish at the Gtech Community Stadium. 

Both sides spent more than half the match down to 14 men after Adam Coleman and Ben Earl were sent off for shoulder to the head tackles and tempers boiled over on more than one occasion in a feisty London derby. 

Ollie Hassell-Collins’ early score for Irish gave them the lead and despite the best efforts of Saracens, they never lost it, with Paddy Jackson’s boot and a sensational try at the death from Chandler Cunningham-South cancelling out Saracens scores from Kapeli Pifeleti and Sean Maitland. 

Saracens still hold a healthy lead at the top of the table, but for McCall it was a frustrating evening all round. 

He said: “Hats off to London Irish, they were by far the better team and deserved their win. 

“I’m not sure why we got what we got to be honest, we seemed off it from the get-go, we didn’t play with the energy and the clear minds that we normally do and we seemed rattled distracted. 

“It doesn’t take much against good teams like London Irish, they are right up there to be honest with you, they’ve played some great games and lost narrowly in four or five of those games and their league position is a bit false I think given how well organised they are and how many good players they have got. 

“It doesn’t take much and if you’re a bit off in this competition, then you get what you get like tonight which I think is good for the competition, you have to be on it all the time.” 

Aside from the two red cards, London Irish also picked up two yellow cards within the same second-half minute to Rory Jennings and Rob Simmons leaving them with 12 men against 14 for ten whole minutes. 

Saracens were unable to capitalise and failed to score a single point in that period, something that McCall believes ultimately cost them. 

“We were on their goal line and they were down to 12 men and you have got to find a way to score in that situation,” said McCall.

“For whatever reason we didn’t and in that period, fair play to them, they dug in and defended superbly well but we maybe made it a bit easy for them. 

“We were a bit off, not everyone, because it is never everyone, but it doesn’t take many for the team to be off and it felt that way tonight.” 

Saracens have been pushed all the way in close games throughout the season, perhaps most notably by Gloucester when it took a late comeback to seal victory but on this occasion they were unable to mount another comeback, after trailing 16-3 shortly before half-time. 

Saracens’ director of rugby is not panicking at defeat though and believes it will help his team in the long run. 

He added: “We have won a lot of tight matches this year and in a lot of the other Premiership games that we have won before we had been really tested and had some tough moments. 

“I think we dealt with those moments brilliantly to be honest with you, it has been a real positive in our season and we have talked about it a lot and tonight we didn’t do that. 

“Sometimes you need to experience the feeling of defeat to push you forwards as well, and we got that feeling tonight because there have been some matches where I think we got away with it. 

“It never feels the same if you have won and tonight does not feel great to be honest but let’s see what we do in the next few weeks.”