In front of a club record home crowd of 30,174 at St James’ Park, Newcastle Falcons sealed a precious Aviva Premiership victory thanks to a long-range penalty from fly-half Toby Flood.
After an emotional build-up which saw club legend Doddie Weir deliver the match ball Newcastle thought they had made the perfect start when Sinoti Sinoti raced 50 metres down the left, only for play to be pulled back by the TMO for a knock-on in the previous tackle.
They found consolation of sorts on four minutes when Newcastle United fan Toby Flood slotted a simple penalty at the Leazes End, Sinoti going close for a second time when Nili Latu’s line-break and Chris Harris’ support saw the Samoan bundled out five metres short.
But it was the Saints who grabbed the first try of the afternoon, David Ribbans the scorer from a pick-and-go down the left after Ahsee Tuala’s break on the 22.
Stephen Myler fired wide with the conversion, Flood having no such worries almost straight from the restart when he slotted another textbook penalty from the Northampton 22.
It got even better for the Falcons just after the quarter mark when a jinking run from Sinoti set up a ruck on the visitors’ 22, Vereniki Goneva picking the ball up and breaking unopposed for the line, peeling away with an Alan Shearer try celebration in front of a jubilant Leazes End.
Despite being by far the more dominant force it was Newcastle who conceded the next try, the visitors profiting from a fumble when a high bomb was hoisted into the 22. Rob Horne hacked the loose ball into the Gallowgate Eng in-goal, Myler converting to reduce the deficit to one.
Newcastle hit back with a third Flood penalty to take a 16-12 half-time lead, and they added three to that total in a fired-up start to the second period when Flood chipped over another three-pointer from close range.
Northampton achieved parity on 52 minutes when numbers in the right corner saw Nafi Tuitavake diving in, Myler adding the touchline conversion, but it lasted less than a minute before Flood’s fifth penalty nudged the Falcons in front by three.
The hour mark had just passed when Myler levelled the sides up again with a 30-metre penalty, Flood hitting the post when handed an instance chance put his team ahead with a penalty from wide out on the left.
The fly-half made amends on 67 minutes with a thunderous penalty from just a step inside the Saints half, bisecting the Gallowgate End uprights to send St James’ Park potty.
It proved to be the difference in a tension-filled climax, The Big One delivering in terms of both spectacle and results on a magical day for all concerned with the club.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Michael Young (Sam Stuart, 38); 1 Sam Lockwood, 2 Kyle Cooper (Scott Lawson, 73), 3 Trevor Davison (Scott Wilson, 52), 4 Calum Green, 5 Sean Robinson (Will Witty, 74), 6 Evan Olmstead, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Nili Latu (Ally Hogg, 74).
Scorers - Tries: Vereniki Goneva. Conversions: Toby Flood. Penalties: Toby Flood 6.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala (Harry Mallinder, 68), 14 Nafi Tuitavake (Ben Foden, 74), 13 Rob Horne, 12 Piers Francis, 11 George North, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Nic Groom (Cobus Reinach, 57); 1 Campese Ma’afu (Francois van Wyk, 63), 2 Mikey Haywood (Reece Marshall, 74), 3 Kieran Brookes Jamal Ford-Robinson, 74), 4 Api Ratuniyawara, 5 Christian Day (captain), 6 David Ribbans, 7 Jamie Gibson (Mitch Eadie, 38), 8 Ben Nutley.
Scorers - Tries: David Ribbans, Rob Horne, Nafi Tuitavake. Conversions: Stephen Myler 2. Penalties: Stephen Myler.
Referee: JP Doyle. Attendance: 30,174.
Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti, Flood, Young, Lockwood, Cooper, Davison, Green, Robinson, Olmstead, Welch, Latu
Replacements Lawson, Vickers, Wilson, Witty, Hogg, Stuart, Hodgson, Mermoz
Tuala, Tuitavake, Horne, Francis, North, Myler, Groom, Ma'afu, Haywood, Brookes, Ratuniyarawa, Day, Ribbans, Gibson, Nutley
Replacements Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Paterson, Eadie, Reinach, Mallinder, Foden
referee: JP Doyle
assistant: Ian Tempest
assistant: Hamish Smales
TMO: Sean Davey