Saracens conceded their first try against Harlequins after just 78 seconds

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said Sunday’s heavy defeat by Harlequins came at the end of “the toughest week” in the club’s history.

The domestic and European champions were beaten 41-14 in their first Premiership match since relegation for salary cap breaches was confirmed.

“Perhaps after 19 weeks of the season, this was just a bridge too far for us,” McCall said.

“This will probably be the worst you see of us. Things were fresh and raw.”

Saracens will drop down to the Championship next season, but will still have to play their remaining 13 Premiership matches despite the ruling by Premier Rugby Limited earlier this month.

Shorn of many of their big names for the game at The Stoop due to Six Nations call-ups, Saracens conceded six tries to Harlequins.

The afternoon very much belonged to two players overlooked by England, Alex Dombrandt and Marcus Smith, who excelled for the hosts at number eight and fly-half respectively.

But Saracens still possessed an imposing line-up with England internationals Richard Wigglesworth, Alex Lozowski and Jack Singleton among their starters.

However, McCall confessed they were unable to replicate the same sort of emotional performance that saw them beat Racing 92 last Sunday to reach the European Champions Cup quarter-finals.

“When we were originally deducted 35 points, there was a strong feeling in the group that we were never going to get relegated,” he said.

“But the decision last Friday that it was going to happen and all the repercussions of that have meant the past week, without question, has been the toughest at the club.

“There’s been a lot of anxiety about people’s personal situations and what they’re going to do next.

“It’s been quite difficult to focus on a game as big as this against an opposition who played as well as Quins did today.

“We’ve shown that we can be far more competitive than that this season and I’m sure we will be again.”

McCall also revealed all players and coaches will take a break from the club next week before they return for a Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final at Sale on Friday 7 February.

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