Newcastle Falcons’ second-half comeback was not enough to give them a share of the points as Northampton Saints held out at Kingston Park Stadium on Friday.
The Falcons trailed 24-3 after a nightmare first half, Tom Collins running in a hat-trick despite the home side actually opening the scoring.
Newcastle began the game with piercing runs by Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti, the Saints forced to infringe in their own 22 as Sonatane Takulua chipped over a sixth-minute penalty from in front of the posts.
But they were behind three minutes later when a line-break by Collins and a one-two with Cobus Reinach saw Collins collecting a back-handed offload to score between the posts, Dan Biggar adding the conversion.
The Welsh fly-half extended the gap to seven with a 35-metre penalty from the right-hand side, and slotted his second conversion on 16 minutes after Collins scored his second try, collecting a Taqele Naiyaravoro offload to dot down in the left corner.
A resurgent Newcastle regained their attacking rhythm around the 25-minute mark, and had a try chalked off when Goneva’s scoring pass to Simon Hammersley was ruled forward by the TMO.
But they went further behind in the closing minutes of the first half when Reinach’s break and pass down the right freed Collins for his hat-trick try, Biggar’s touchline conversion handing the visitors a 24-3 interval lead.
Newcastle began the second half with gusto, taking a more direct approach with repeated forward runners round the fringes gaining yards through the heart of the Northampton defence.
Their pressure paid off on 48 minutes when Rodney Ah You crashed over for his first try for the club, a five-metre scrum and a series of rucks seeing the prop hitting a hard line at first receiver to barrel over.
Takulua converted, the scrum-half following up with a searing attack from his own 22, supporting runs from Toby Flood and Nemani Nagusa earning an attacking lineout which they failed to turn into points.
But they addressed that with the very next play, Takulua racing between the posts for a try having collected an offload from George McGuigan, the Tongan converting his own try to reduce the arrears to seven.
Despite a barrage of Falcons pressure, however, time was not on their side, and a losing bonus point was taken from their grasp when Alex Mitchell intercepted on halfway for a converted score.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi (Johnny Williams, 57, Josh Matavesi, 73), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (co-captain, Tim Swiel, 66), 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Logovi'i Mulipola, 2 George McGuigan (Kyle Cooper, 63), 3 Rodney Ah You (Sam Lockwood, 77), 4 Calum Green, 5 Andrew Davidson (Sean Robinson, 57), 6 Callum Chick (Gary Graham, 64), 7 Mark Wilson (co-captain), 8 Nemani Nagusa.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Rodney Ah You, Sonatane Takulua. Conversions: Sonatane Takulua 2. Penalties: Sonatane Takulua.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Rory Hutchinson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Cobus Reinach (Alex Mitchell, 66); 1 Francois van Wyk (Alex Waller, 63), 2 Reece Marshall (Samson Ma’asi, 72), 3 Paul Hill (Ben Franks, 63), 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Teimana Harrison (captain).
Saints scorers - Tries: Tom Collins 3, Alex Mitchell. Conversions: Dan Biggar 4. Penalties: Dan Biggar.
Referee: Luke Pearce. Attendance: 6,389.
Ah You 48
Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Mulipola, McGuigan, Ah You, Green, Davidson, Chick, Wilson, Nagusa
Replacements Cooper, Lockwood, Davison, Robinson, Graham, Young, Swiel, Williams
Tuala, Collins, Hutchinson, Burrell, Naiyaravoro, Biggar, Reinach, van Wyk, Marshall, Hill, Ratuniyarawa, Lawes, Gibson, Wood, Harrison
Replacements Ma'asi, Waller, Franks, Coles, Onojaife, Mitchell, Grayson, Kellaway
referee: Luke Pearce
assistant: Steve Lee
assistant: John Meredith
TMO: David Hudson