Saracens 26 Falcons 12

Saturday 6 April 2019

Newcastle Falcons were denied a bonus point at Gallagher Premiership champions Saracens in the most agonising of fashions, Alex Lozowski awarded a controversial try with the very last play following a lengthy TMO consultation.

The Falcons more than held their own during the early exchanges, forcing errors from the home side and mounting a penetrating attack from a scrum on their own 22 which saw them get deep into Saracens territory through a mixture of sound running lines and astute offloading.

The ball was eventually knocked on on that occasion but the Falcons kept fighting, and enjoyed a couple of early incursions via the enthusiastic carrying of players including fit-again Alex Tait and debutant Rodney Ah You.

Ah You was putting in an impressive shift at scrum time, too, as a dominant Falcons eight won a penalty at their first set piece, Takulua sniping from the base of another early scrum as they tried to make use of front-foot ball.

Twice in quick succession Saracens kicked the ball out on the full in the face of fierce Newcastle line-speed, but the wall of black stood firm with the visitors unable to convert their territory and possession into points.

That finally changed on 23 minutes when repeated infringements allowed Takulua a shot at goal from the left-hand side, the Tonga captain bisecting the uprights from the 15-metre line for the first score of the day.

Callum Chick’s line-out steal on his own 22 denied Sarries a foot-hold as the home fans grew increasingly restless, but they had reason to cheer on 35 minutes when an 80-metre counter-attack including a series of well-judged offloads delivered an unconverted try in the left corner for Sean Maitland.

The Falcons bounced back and took a 6-5 lead into the interval when Takulua stroked over a penalty from the right, Gary Graham having earned a penalty from the restart with his enthusiastic chasing and disruption of home possession.

Saracens began the second half on the front foot despite playing into the wind, kicking a penalty to the left corner but finding themselves thwarted when Sinoti Sinoti’s keen ruck work earned a relieving penalty for the visitors.

A scrum-five near their own try-line yielded more defensive gains for Newcastle when they were awarded a free kick, but they trailed on 57 minutes when another 80-metre counter-attack saw Max Malins scoring down the left.

Takulua shaved three points off the champions’ lead with a long-range penalty just after the hour mark following a late hit on Toby Flood, but Saracens ground out a third try when Nick Tompkins scored from a driving maul in the right corner.

Farrell’s conversion took the gap out to ten points with as many minutes remaining, Takulua responding with a booming 55-metre penalty which had plenty to spare, putting his team within the all-important bonus-point buffer.

But there was a late sting in the tail, Alex Lozowski denying the Falcons their consolation with a last-minute try after a lengthy TMO deliberation.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi (Alex Dunbar, 70), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Logovi'i Mulipola (Sam Lockwood, 70), 2 George McGuigan (Kyle Cooper, 70), 3 Rodney Ah You (David Wilson, 57), 4 Evan Olmstead, 5 Calum Green (Sean Robinson, 70), 6 Gary Graham, 7 John Hardie, 8 Callum Chick.

Falcons scorers - Penalties: Sonatane Takulua 4.

Saracens: 15 Max Malins, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Richard Barrington (Ralph Adams-Hale, 72), 2 Tom Woolstencroft (Christopher Tolofua, 44), 3 Vincent Koch (Tito Lamositele, 44), 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis (Nick Isiekwe, 72), 6 Mike Rhodes, 7 Schalk Burger, 8 Ben Earl (Calum Clark, 57).

Saracens scorers - Tries: Sean Maitland, Max Malins, Nick Tompkins, Alex Lozowski. Conversions: Owen Farrell 3.

Referee: Karl Dickson. Attendance: 9,056.

Saracens 26

Tries
Maitland 34
Malins 56
Tompkins 68
Lozowski 80

Conversions
Farrell 57,70,84

Newcastle Falcons 12

Penalties
Takulua 24,39,61,76

Saracens

Malins, Maitland, Lozowski, Tompkins, Lewington, Farrell, Spencer, Barrington, Woolstencroft, Koch, Itoje, Kruis, Rhodes, Burger, Earl

Replacements Tolofua, Adams-Hale, Lamositele, Isiekwe, Clark, Whiteley, Morris, Gallagher

Newcastle Falcons

Tait, Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Mulipola, McGuigan, Ah You, Olmstead, Green, Graham, Hardie, Chick

Replacements Cooper, Lockwood, Wilson, Robinson, Witty, Stuart, Connon, Dunbar

referee: Karl Dickson

assistant: George Selwood

assistant: Steve Lee

TMO: David Rose

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