Vereniki Goneva’s 76th minute interception try handed Newcastle Falcons a second Aviva Premiership away win of the season as they toppled Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night.
The Falcons led 8-3 at half-time and got of to a dream start when Joel Hodgson dived in for a try against his former club, Goneva having punctured a couple of holes in the Northampton defence with some energetic early running to create numbers down the right.
The visitors thought they had a second try three minutes later when Goneva’s midfield burst and wide pass to Marcus Watson saw the latter dive into the left corner, only for the television match official to signal a debateable obstruction earlier in the move.
The Saints bit back via a Stephen Myler penalty from just left of centre on 20 minutes as the home side built some territorial pressure, but the men in orange were proving a resilient presence as Juan Pablo Socino battered his way through the home defence to force a string of Falcons attacks.
The Argentinean mixed his game with a couple of lovely dabs to the corner as Newcastle kept their hosts guessing, although they were only a whisker away from conceding a try on 25 minutes when Ben Foden was deemed to have knocked on in the act of scoring from a kick-chase to the right corner.
Newcastle hit back in a string climax to the half, Scott Lawson forcing a turnover with some eager counter-rucking.
The Saints were reduced to 14 men when former Falcon Kieran Brookes was shown a straight red card for a shoulder charge against his former club, who duly went up the other end an extended their interval lead to five points via a Hodgson penalty from 30 metres.
It was the home side who began the second half stronger, winning a line-out in the left corner when Myler’s dab through forced Hodgson to scramble the ball clear. The Saints took full advantage at the close-range set piece, setting up a ruck on the try line from which Christian Day grounded the ball.
Myler added the conversion and a penalty to further emphasise the turning of the tide, the fly-half pinning the Falcons back with a string of well-weighted kicks to the corner before the visitors countered through Tait and Watson.
It felt like only a matter of time before the breakthrough came, and it arrived on 65 minutes when a series of rucks on the Northampton line eventually saw lock Will Witty plough over, Hodgson converting for a two-point lead.
Myler’s third penalty nosed the Saints back in front going into a tense final 10 minutes, Newcastle snatching the momentum back when Goneva intercepted and ran the length to score.
Hodgson’s touchline conversion ensured a four-point buffer, one the home side were unable to overcome as Newcastle held on for a well-deserved away win.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Dominic Waldouck (Fred Burdon, 24), 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson (Brett Connon, 62), 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young; 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 David Wilson (Scott Wilson, 57), 4 Calum Green, 5 Will Witty, 6 Callum Chick (Opeti Fonua, 62), 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 8 Ally Hogg.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Joel Hodgson, Will Witty, Vereniki Goneva. Conversions: Joel Hodgson 2. Penalties: Joel Hodgson.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Jamie Elliott, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Rory Hutchinson (James Wilson, 66), 11 Tom Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Tom Kessell; 1 Alex Waller (Ethan Waller, 68), 2 Mikey Haywood, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 James Craig (Paul Hill, 47), 5 Christian Day (captain, Jordan Onojaife, 62), 6 Michael Paterson, 7 Jamie Gibson, 8 Ben Nutley.
Red card: Kieran Brookes (38).
Saints scorers - Tries: Christian Day. Conversions: Stephen Myler. Penalties: Stephen Myler 3.
Referee: Andrew Jackson.
Foden, Elliott, Burrell, Hutchinson, Collins, Myler, Kessell, Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Craig, Day, Paterson, Gibson, Nutley
Replacements Clare, Waller, Hill, Onojaife, Ludlam, Groom, Hanrahan, Wilson
Tait, Goneva, Waldouck, Socino, Watson, Hodgson, Young, Vickers, Lawson, Wilson, Green, Witty, Chick, Wilson, Hogg
Replacements Sowrey, Rogers, Wilson, Civetta, Fonua, Egerton, Connon, Burdon
referee: Andrew Jackson
assistant: Ross Campbell
assistant: Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Sainsbury