Home comforts for Saracens
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall welcomed a successful start to Aviva Premiership life at Allianz Park after the 31-11 win over Exeter.
England prop Mako Vunipola scored two tries on Saturday 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 £24million 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 Charlie 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."
Exeter head coach Rob Baxter had no immediate complaints with the surface, but was more scathing of his team's performance.
"We got taught a few lessons in a few areas today, which isn't normally an issue for us," Baxter said.
"Saracens' physicality at the breakdown, line speed and nous at controlling territory was better.
"When you play against Saracens those things exacerbate very quickly. You don't tend to get away with anything other than a very high level performance against them.
"At half-time we shouldn't have been as close as we were and in some areas our performance wasn't good enough today.
"It was our first time in contact on a new surface, but I don't really want to look for excuses.
"The pitch was all right. I'll speak to the players and see how they felt about it and we'll look at their bumps and bruises.
"I said to the players you win and lose games in the Premier League. Sometimes a match gets away from you and today it did."