Newcastle Falcons were unable to overcome a deadly Northampton Saints outfit in the Aviva A League at Franklin’s Gardens on Monday night.
A hat-trick from GJ Van Velze and a brace from Tom Collins ensured Northampton kept up their 100 per cent record, and inflicted the Falcons’ first defeat of the campaign.
Van Velze touched down for his first score as early as the fifth minute when he crashed over on the blindside after excellent work at the lineout. Glenn Dickson fired the subsequent conversion against the near post and the home side led 5-0. It was evident from the opening exchanges that this was going to be the Falcons’ stiffest opposition yet in this season’s A League.
Northampton had chances to pull clear of their North East counterparts with a number of penalties within kicking range, but instead elected to punt the ball into the corner.
Relentless pressure from Northampton was in abundance for much of the half, but to the Falcons’ credit they stood firm in defence. However, James Ponton’s men were unable to prevent Van Velze from doubling his tally for the evening with the South African crashing over the line on 25 minutes. Dickson’s simple conversion extended Northampton’s advantage to 12-0.
On the stroke of half-time Newcastle should have closed the gap through an Andrew Higgins try, but the winger despite beating his marker with a sharp turn of pace, knocked on thanks to pressure from a covering defender.
Northampton began the second period in emphatic style, scoring successive tries within three minutes of the restart. Van Velze fended off three would-be tacklers to complete his hat-trick after slick hands in the backline, before Tom Collins rounded off a sweeping attacking play to slide over to the right of the uprights. Dickson converted with the first of those scores, but cannoned the woodwork with the latter.
Chris Harris reduced the arrears a minute later, pouncing on a loose for a smash and grab five points, the Carlisle-born centre getting reward for his potency with ball in hand. Craig Willis pulled the conversion wide and the visitors now trailed 24-5.
With the 70 minute mark approaching, Collins grabbed his second try of the game for Wanderers when he intercepted a looping Falcons pass out of the air to race half the length. Dickson was unable to convert but Northampton were firmly in the ascendancy at 29-5.
A flurry of changes in the closing stages disrupted the harmony of the game and the contest finished 29-5 in favour of Northampton.
Northampton Wanderers: 15 Vasily Artemyev, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Dom Waldouk, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Glenn Dickson, 9 Ryan Glynn, 1 Ethan Waller, 2 Mike Haywood, 3 Gareth Denman, 4 Rob Verbakel, 5 Alex Woolford, 6 Ben Nutley, 7 Teimana Harrison, 8 GJ Van Velze
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Tom Warren, 18 Salesi Ma’afu, 19 Matt Williams, 20 Sam Harry, 21 Alex Day, 22 Sam Oliver, 23 Howard Packman
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Nathan Bailey, 14 Sean Brown, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Alex Crockett, 11 Andy Higgins, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Gary Strain, 2 David Nelson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Will Witty, 6 Fraser McKenzie, 7 Daniel Temm, 8 Harrison Collins
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 James Hallam, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Josh Hedley, 20 Ollie Hodgson, 21 Jonny Burn, 22 Josh Bragman, 23 Nick Cairns
Referee: Nick Cockburn