The young guns of Newcastle Falcons were unable to claim victory over Saracens at Allianz Park in the LV= Cup on Sunday afternoon.
Saracens registered the first points of the contest on three minutes courtesy of a Ben Spencer penalty directly in front of goal. Spencer doubled his tally from similar range moments later after Sean Tomes was sin-binned for persistent infringement at the ruck. The penalty count was an incredible 8-0 in favour of Saracens within the first ten minutes.
Down to 14-men, Newcastle’s indiscipline at the breakdown cost them once more with referee Greg MacDonald awarding Spencer the chance to extend the gap to 9-0 with the boot. And the scrum-half duly obliged, this time from an acute angle.
Dean Richards’ men, however responded in emphatic fashion, and crossed for the first try of the game on the quarter-of-an-hour mark. The northeasterners took advantage of a lacklustre Saracens scrum, with the ball popping out to Joel Hodgson on the blindside who fed the onrushing Tom Catterick to squeeze in at the corner. Hodgson pulled the conversion across the face of goal and the Falcons trailed 9-5.
Spencer’s impeccable goal-kicking continued for the Londoners midway through the first half to increase his side’s advantage to 12-5, before the Falcons went close to unhinging Sarries’ rear-guard for the second occasion of the afternoon. Zach Kibirige came off his wing to sidestep his marker and break through the middle, but his attempted one handed looping pass to Catterick on the overlap found touch.
The Falcons were starting to get a foothold in the game with the home crowd becoming increasingly anxious at what they were seeing as half-time approached. Hodgson converted one of his three penalty attempts ten minutes before the break; his successful kick coming from the half-way line to reduce the margin to 12-8.
On the stroke of half-time the Allianz Park outfit were throwing everything at Newcastle as they looked to breach a heroic visiting defensive line. Newcastle, scrambling desperately in defence, prevented the score, but with the last act of the half Sarries earned a penalty which Spencer slotted home to give the north London club a 15-8 interval lead.
Saracens should have opened their try-scoring account within the first five minutes of the second stanza when flanker Nick de Jager knocked-on with the try line at his mercy following a sweeping attacking move. Quick hands in the Sarries back division presented the opportunity for de Jager to touchdown in the corner, but the home side made amends on 48 minutes through a Jackson Wray try. Again, with numbers out wide, and with Newcastle defending for their lives, the ball was spun wide to Wray to burrow over. Spencer failed with the touchline conversion and the hosts were in the ascendancy at 20-8. Wray grabbed his brace almost immediately as he crashed over the line from close range after Saracens’ relentless pressure in attack told once more. Spencer added the extras to make it 28-8.
To their credit the Falcons pushed forward in numbers and enjoyed a period of sustained pressure on Sarries’ line. But Saracens weathered the storm and hit Newcastle with a sucker-punch in the shape of a Ben Ransom try. The Saracens No.15 backed-up a Tim Strether break through the middle to slide over for the five-point score. Spencer nailed the conversion and the Falcons were 34-8 down.
Saracens had the final say with Tom Jubb crossing for a converted try, but the youngsters in Newcastle Falcons’ ranks can be justly proud of their efforts.
Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Jack Wilson, 13 Tim Streather, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Nathan Earle, 10 Nils Mordt (c), 9 Ben Spencer, 1 Rhys Gill, 2 Jared Saunders, 3 James Johnston, 4 Hatden Smith, 5 Eoin Sheriff, 6 Nick de Jager, 7 Matt Hankin, 8 Jackson Wray
Replacements: 16 Scott Spurling, 17 Nick Autercac, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Tom Jubb, 20 Maro Itoje, 21 Henry Taylor, 22 Sam Stanley, 23 Charlie Kingsman
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Alex Crockett, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Glen Young, 6 Ben Morris, 7 Dan Temm, 8 Chris Yotk (c)
Replacements: 16 David Nelson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Grant Shiells, 19 Will Witty, 20 Ollie Hodgson, 21 Andy Davies, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Penny