Newcastle Falcons were left frustrated by a ruthlessly-efficient Saracens side as the European champions got the better of a competitive Aviva Premiership match in Philadelphia on Saturday.
Five Owen Farrell penalties helped the Londoners on their way, the match taking place at Talen Energy Stadium, home to Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.
Newcastle began the game at high pace in sweltering conditions, enjoying the better of the early territory and possession as Vereniki Goneva had a foray down the left wing before being hauled down just short.
But it was Saracens who grabbed the first points of the evening on eight minutes when a line-out on the right wing was worked quickly through the hands for American Chris Wyles to dot down in the left corner.
Farrell converted from wide out, the European champions denied a second try when Newcastle’s line-out defence prevented them from making the most of a maul in the left corner from a close-range penalty.
Calum Green continued where he left off the previous week against Sale, rising high to steal another Saracens line-out in prime position, Goneva and Chris Harris probing the Saracens defence with a break down the left.
Newcastle’s aggressive defence was becoming a repeated facet of the contest, and it delivered them a try on 26 minutes when in-your-face pressure from Mark Wilson forced a midfield interception, the England flanker freeing serial intercept artist Goneva for a try down the left.
Sonatane Takulua’s conversion levelled matters at 7-7, Farrell nudging Sarries back into the lead on 32 minutes with a simple penalty from just right of centre.
The England and Lions fly-half extended his side’s advantage to 13-7 with the final kick of the opening half, and slotted the first points of the second period via another penalty from wide left on the 22.
Repeating the trick twice more in rapid succession to build a 15-point buffer, Saracens gambled on a try from their subsequent penalty and were denied when further line-out pressure saw their set-piece failing to fire.
Hammersley scurried back 50 metres to prevent a certain try as Sarries hacked ahead into open back-field around the hour mark, but the award of a penalty try from Goneva’s attempted interception on 75 minutes removed any uncertainty from the outcome.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi (Juan Pablo Socino, 51), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson (Belisario Agulla, 69), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Sam Stuart, 68); 1 Rob Vickers (Sami Mavinga, 66), 2 Scott Lawson (Santiago Socino, 51), 3 Jon Welsh (Trevor Davison, 56), 4 Calum Green, 5 Sean Robinson (Will Witty, 58), 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Nili Latu (Ally Hogg, 64).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Vereniki Goneva. Conversions: Sonatane Takulua.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Marcelo Bosch (Nick Tompkins, 64), 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles (Sean Maitland, 56), 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Spencer (Richard Wiglesworth, 52); 1 Mako Vunipola (Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 71), 2 Jamie George (Chris Tolofua, 59), 3 Juan Figallo (Kieran Longbottom, 58), 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Nick Isiekwe (Dominic Day, 66), 6 Michael Rhodes, 7 Schalk Burger (Jackson Wray, 40), 8 Billy Vunipola.
Saracens scorers - Tries: Chris Wyles, Penalty try. Conversions: Owen Farrell. Penalties: Owen Farrell 5.
Referee: JP Doyle. Attendance: 6,271.
Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti, Hodgson, Takulua, Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Robinson, Wilson, Welch, Latu
Replacements Socino, Mavinga, Davison, Witty, Hogg, Stuart, Agulla, Socino
Goode, Williams, Bosch, Barritt, Wyles, Farrell, Spencer, Vunipola, George, Figallo, Itoje, Isiekwe, Rhodes, Burger, Vunipola
Replacements Tolofua, Thompson-Stringer, Longbottom, Day, Wray, Wigglesworth, Tompkins, Maitland
referee: JP Doyle
assistant: Dean Richards
assistant: Paul Burton
TMO: David Sainsbury