Mouritz Botha against his former club

Saracens 23 Falcons 14

Sunday 1 May 2016

Newcastle Falcons showed plenty of fighting spirit in the capital on a day when their Aviva Premiership status was confirmed for next season.

Newcastle stormed into a 14-3 half-time lead thanks to Marcus Watson’s well-taken brace, Saracens hitting back with a strong second-half showing.

The Falcons signalled their intent as early as four minutes in when they were held up over the Saracens line.

Craig Willis’ long, looping pass freed Alex Tait for a foray down the right, Sean Robinson offering a supporting run down the other flank as the visitors enjoyed the better of territory and possession.

Skipper Will Welch and back-row comrades Dan Temm and Mark Wilson were absolutely everywhere, and even when Charlie Hodgson’s 14th minute penalty put them three points down they stuck to their task.

Michael Young’s sniping run had them in behind Sarries’ defensive line, their pressure earning deserved rewards when quick hands from Willis and Chris Harris delivered a try from turnover ball. Watson was the man to round it off, the former England Sevens cap squeezing inside the left corner.

Willis converted brilliantly from out wide, Hodgson hitting the post with a second attempted penalty for a Saracens side who were under sustained attack.

Newcastle thought they had a second try when a 13-man maul saw Taione Vea break from the base, and even when the video referee denied them they did not have to wait very long.

Again it was Watson in the poaching role, Craig Willis’ deft grubber giving the winger a run-in after Alex Tait’s piercing break had prised open the home defence.

Willis converted from wide out for a 14-3 interval lead, Saracens chipping five off that mark in the 45th minute when repeated line-outs in the right corner eventually brought an unconverted try from Jackson Wray at the back of a driving maul.

Wray grounded his side’s second try on 55 minutes from an identical maul in the right corner, Hodgson’s conversion putting the home side a single point up as they turned the forward screw.

The fly-half extended that margin to four with a penalty from 40 metres out just before the hour mark, hitting the post with his next attempt as the home side camped themselves in Newcastle’s half.

That territorial dominance delivered a try for Maro Itoje when the England lock broke from the back of a maul in the right corner, neither side troubling the scorers during the final 10 minutes as Newcastle at least celebrated the consolation of Premiership survival.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: Simon Hammersley, Alex Tait, Chris Harris, Adam Powell (T Penny, 71), Marcus Watson, Craig Willis (T Catterick, 70), Michael Young (R Tipuna, 70); Rob Vickers (A Rogers, 67), George McGuigan (R Hawkins, 71), Taione Vea (A Foster 50-65), Mouritz Botha (R Mayhew, 62), Sean Robinson (C Green, 35), Will Welch (captain), Dan Temm, Mark Wilson.

Falcons scorers - Tries: M Watson 2. Conversions: C Willis 2.

SARACENS: Ben Ransom, Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch, Brad Barritt (captain, N Tompkins, 73), Chris Wyles, Charlie Hodgson (N Mordt, 76), Richard Wigglesworth (B Spencer, 56); Richard Barrington (M Vunipola, 40), Jared Saunders (S Brits, 56), Titi Lamositele (Juan Figallo, 40), Maro Itoje, Jim Hamilton, Michael Rhodes, Jacques Burger (K Brown, 53), Jackson Wray.

Saracens scorers - Tries: J Wray 2, M Itoje. Conversions: C Hodgson. Penalties: C Hodgson.

Referee: Ian Tempest. Attendance: 9,744.

Saracens 23

Tries
Wray 46,53
Itoje 68

Conversions
Hodgson 54

Penalties
Hodgson 18,58

Newcastle Falcons 14

Tries
Watson 21,39

Conversions
Willis 22,40

Saracens

Ransom, Ashton, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles, Hodgson, Wigglesworth, Barrington, Saunders, Lamositele, Itoje, Hamilton, Rhodes, Burger, Wray

Replacements Brits, Vunipola, Figallo, Smith, Brown, Spencer, Mordt, Tompkins

Newcastle Falcons

Hammersley, Tait, Harris, Powell, Watson, Willis, Young, Vickers, McGuigan, Vea, Botha, Robinson, Welch, Temm, Wilson

Replacements Hawkins, Rogers, Foster, Green, Mayhew, Tipuna, Catterick, Penny

referee: Ian Tempest

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