There was enterprise and effort in abundance, but Newcastle Falcons’ wait for a Gallagher Premiership victory continues following Saturday’s home loss to Saracens.
Rotimi Segun’s try five minutes from time effectively decided a contest which had plenty in it for the duration – neither side lacking anything in physicality or attacking ambition.
A helter-skelter first half saw the lead change hands five times – the visitors eventually taking a 17-16 advantage with them into the changing rooms.
The Falcons were rewarded for their early adventure just five minutes in when scrum pressure earned them a penalty on the Saracens 22, and rather than taking the simple three they kicked for the corner.
The gamble paid off when George McGuigan was driven over for a try from the maul, and even a fierce cross-wind could not prevent Will Haydon-Wood from nailing the touchline conversion.
The visitors drew level on 15 minutes with a carbon-copy score when they kicked a penalty to the corner for hooker Tom Woolstencroft to drive over from the resulting maul – Alex Goode’s conversion tying things up.
A booming 45-metre penalty from Haydon-Wood put the Falcons three in front at the quarter mark, and the fly-half repeated the trick from half the distance just a couple of moments later to extend that advantage to six.
The lead lasted les than five minutes, however, with the visitors awarded a penalty try when Mike Brown was ruled to have deliberately batted the ball dead from a Saracens grubber to the in-goal, an action which saw the full-back sent to the sin bin and Sarries awarded a penalty try.
The see-saw scoring pattern continued when Haydon-Wood’s third penalty, this time for a high tackle 30 metres in front of the posts, saw Newcastle edging back in front.
The Londoners missed out on a prime opportunity to take the lead back when they kicked a penalty to the right corner once more but knocked on at the resulting maul, with the Falcons clearing their lines from the subsequent scrum.
They were more clinical when handed a penalty from 35 metres out in front just before the interval, taking the shot at goal and earning a one-point lead when Alex Goode sent a penalty between the posts.
Newcastle ended the half with a spell of free-flowing attack which included line-breaking runs from George Wacokecoke and Sean Robinson, but with the scoring pass just not sticking it was Saracens who led 17-16 at half-time.
It was the Londoners who struck the first blow of the second half just four minutes after the resumption, a period of red-zone pressure seeing full-back Elliott Obatoyinbo dotting down for a converted try in the right corner.
On the day of his 100th appearance, Falcons captain Callum Chick was held up over the try-line from a close-range pick and go, but there was no stopping McGuigan on 53 minutes when the hooker shot down the short-side from a close-range maul in the left corner.
The hosts kept battering away in search of further gains, runs from Brown, Earle, Chick and Wacokecoke getting them deep into the 22, but it was Saracens who grabbed the game’s key score when Rotimi Segun sped into the right corner on 74 minutes from the back of a maul.
That handed his side the four-try bonus point, a late Goode try adding further gloss for Sarries.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Pete Lucock (Max Wright, 69), 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Will Haydon-Wood (Brett Connon, 61), 9 Louis Schreuder (Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 65); 1 Trevor Davison, 2 George McGuigan (Charlie Maddison, 76), 3 Mark Tampin (Logovi’i Mulipola, 50, Adam Brocklebank, 55), 4 Greg Peterson (Freddie Lockwood, 65), 5 Rob Farrar (Will Montgomery, 61), 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Josh Basham, 8 Callum Chick (captain).
Scorers - Tries: George McGuigan 2. Conversions: Will Haydon-Wood. Penalties: Will Haydon-Wood 3.
Saracens: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo (Alex Lewington, 63, Dom Morris, 70), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Rotimi Segun, 10 Alex Goode (captain), 9 Aled Davies; 1 Richard Barrington (Eroni Mawi, 52), 2 Tom Woolstencroft (Kapeli Pifeleti, 78), 3 Vincent Koch (Sam Wainwright, 78), 4 Theo McFarland, 5 Tim Swinson (Nick Isiekwe, 47), 6 Jackson Wray (Andy Christie, 59), 7 Ben Earl, 8 Billy Vunipola.
Scorers - Tries: Tom Woolstencroft, Penalty try, Elliott Obatoyinbo, Rotimi Segun, Alex Goode. Conversions: Alex Goode 3. Penalties: Alex Goode.
Referee: Ian Tempest. Attendance: 7,685.
Brown, Radwan, Wacokecoke, Lucock, Earle, Haydon-Wood, Schreuder, Davison, McGuigan, Tampin, Peterson, Farrar, Robinson, Basham, Chick
Replacements Maddison, Brocklebank, Mulipola, Lockwood, Montgomery, Nordli-Kelemeti, Connon, Wright
Obatoyinbo, Maitland, Lozowski, Taylor, Segun, Goode, Davies, Barrington, Woolstencroft, Koch, McFarland, Swinson, Wray, Earl, Vunipola
Replacements Pifeleti, Mawi, Wainwright, Isiekwe, Christie, de Haas, Morris, Lewington
referee: Ian Tempest
assistant: Adam Leal
assistant: John Meredith
TMO: David Rose