Newcastle Falcons 3 Saracens 38

Sunday 6 December 2015

Late brace gives league leaders added gloss to effective performance at Kingston Park

Newcastle Falcons felt the full force of the Aviva Premiership champions Saracens on Sunday as the league leaders continued their unbeaten start to the season.

Dean Richards' men offered robust opposition against a supremely organised visiting side, the score-line stretched out by a pair of late tries as the Londoners chased down a bonus point at the death.

The Falcons trailed 13-3 at the midway point after a combative first-half showing, their aggressive fringe running and defence of the rolling maul keeping the champions busy.

Mark Wilson and Michael Young were among the early stand-outs as the home side's tactical kicking game ensured they played the game in the right areas of the field..

In a game dominated by the boot, Alex Tait's vision and execution saw him smash a well-driven kick to the corner in one of many prolonged tactical kicking exchanges with opposite number Alex Goode, but it was the visitors who enjoyed the first score of the day.

That was on 10 minutes when Saracens kicked a line-out to the left corner, Samuela Vunisa driven over from the resulting maul as the unbeaten league leaders marched forward.

Charlie Hodgson added the touch-line conversion despite difficult kicking conditions, and maintained his range with an 18th minute penalty as referee Andrew Small blew for not rolling away.

Newcastle's maul defence was being tested to the full as they successfully repelled a string of attacks, earning their first points of the day when Tom Catterick sent over a 24th minute penalty.

Saracens missed a chance to extend their lead when Hodgson's penalty to touch was sent dead in goal, but the former England man had the last say of the half when his 40-metre penalty handed them a 10-point advantage.

The second half began in similarly cagey fashion, the bulk of the scoring not coming until the dying stages when the four-try bonus point loomed into view.

Up until that point it was workman-like stuff, Hodgson slotting a penalty 15 minutes into the half as Newcastle's committed defence of the driving maul forced them to turn to the boot.

Catterick was alert enough to prevent a try in the right corner when Hodgson hung up a cross-field kick, but Sarries were over the line for a second time when runs from Billy Vunipola and Jamie George set up the ruck from which Nick Tompkins wriggled over.

Hodgson converted from out wide, Newcastle enjoying their fair share of possession but not managing to turn it into points as Chris Harris' grubber to the right corner was defused before Tait had a chance to ground it.

A stop-start game then sprung into life for the final five minutes, Juan Pablo Socino's downfield run seeing Saracens returning the ball with interest when Hodgson broke down the left for their third try.

The rushed conversion left them a minute to find a four-try bonus point, Ben Ransom's 80-metre run halted by Marcus Watson.

It was only a temporary reprieve, the ball being moved to the right where a penalty five metres out saw Billy Vunipola seizing the initiative.

The No 8 tapped the ball quickly and threw himself at the try-line, England's World Cup back-rower carrying sufficient ballast to get the ball down.

Alex Goode slotted the touch-line conversion with the final act of the day, the Falcons now moving into back-to-back European Challenge Cup skirmishes with Irish province Connacht.

Newcastle Falcons 3

Penalties
Catterick 24

Saracens 38

Tries
Vunisa 9
Tompkins 62
Hodgson 79
Vunipola 83

Conversions
Hodgson 10,63
Goode 84

Penalties
Hodgson 19,42,54,74

Newcastle Falcons

Tait, Agulla, Powell, Socino, Watson, Catterick, Young, Vickers, McGuigan, Welsh, Robinson, Green, Wilson, Welch, Latu

Replacements Lawson, Rogers, Vea, Botha, Hogg, Takulua, Willis, Harris

Saracens

Goode, Wyles, Tompkins, Taylor, Ellery, Hodgson, Spencer, Barrington, George, Figallo, Kruis, Itoje, Wray, Fraser, Vunisa

Replacements Saunders, Vunipola, Du Plessis, Rhodes, Vunipola, de Kock, Ransom, Streather

referee: Andrew Small

assistant: Ross Campbell

assistant: Andy Watson

TMO: David Grashoff

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