Saints 22 Falcons 24

Friday 01 December 2017 Written by: Adam

The Falcons suffered a nervy moment just nine seconds in when the television match official ruled no-try to Ben Foden in the left corner, the Welsh winger having knocked on leaping high into the night sky in pursuit of a deep kick-off.

Newcastle were showing more variety in their game with heavy midfield running from Josh Matavesi, Fijian compatriot Vereniki Goneva gaining some early yards out wide in a game which saw few clear-cut chances during the early sparring.

The deadlock lasted until the quarter mark, when Northampton kicked a penalty to the corner and scored from the resulting phases, Harry Mallinder gliding through a gap despite Newcastle having defended the driving maul effectively.

The Falcons hit back and assumed a two-point lead within five minutes, eager ruck work from Kyle Cooper winning a penalty on halfway, setting up the lineout from which his team ultimately scored when Sinoti Sinoti rolled free of his tackler to ground down the left-hand side.

Toby Flood converted, and he did so again within five minutes when Matavesi powered over for the visitors’ second try – Chris Harris’ line-break supported by Sinoti who fed Matavesi from close range.

Northampton responded with a penalty try when Flood was sin-binned for collapsing a maul near his own posts, and it took heroic defence from the Falcons to maintain their 14-12 half-time lead as Northampton were held up over the line and then repelled from a series of close-range attacks.

More stern defence was required in the opening exchanges of the second half when the Saints had a maul in the right corner repelled by a committed Newcastle pack, and the visitors added another three to their lead when over-eagerness at ruck time handed Flood a penalty 35 metres out and just right of centre.

A rock-solid set piece was at the heart of the Falcons’ effort, Calum Green and Sean Robinson both rising high in the line-out, while the Saints got little change out of a fired-up Newcastle scrum.

The home side assumed a two-point lead on the hour mark when a maul in the right corner saw Dylan Hartley driven over, England international Piers Francis converting well from the wide out.

Chris Harris produced a try-saving tackle near his own line when Northampton countered down the right from a trademark Sinoti run, and the television match official ruled out Ahsee Tuala’s try after a clear and obvious knock-on at the base of the previous ruck.

The hosts had to make do with a Francis penalty as they pushed their advantage to five on 70 minutes, but there was a sting in the tail as a monumental late attack from Newcastle ended with Latu crashing over from close range, Takulua holding his nerve with the conversion.

**Northampton Saints:** 15 Harry Mallinder, 14 Juan Pablo Estelles, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Stephenson (Ahsee Tuala, 44), 11 Ben Foden, 10 James Grayson (Piers Francis, 40), 9 Cobus Reinach (Nic Groom, 60); 1 Alex Waller (Francois van Wyk, 77), 2 Dylan Hartley (captain), 3 Jamal Ford-Robinson (Paul Hill, 71), 4 Michael Paterson, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Tom Wood, 8 Teimana Harrison.

**Saints scorers -** Tries: Harry Mallinder, Penalty try, Dylan Hartley. Conversions: Piers Francis. Penalties: Piers Francis.

**Newcastle Falcons:** 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (Joel Hodgson, 71), 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Rob Vickers (Sami Mavinga, 70), 2 Kyle Cooper (Scott Lawson, 65), 3 Jon Welsh, 4 Calum Green (Will Witty, 70), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch (captain), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Mark Wilson (Nili Latu, 66).

**Falcons scorers -** Tries: Sinoti Sinoti, Josh Matavesi, Nili Latu. Conversions: Toby Flood 2. Penalties: Toby Flood.

**Referee:** Craig Maxwell-Keys.