Saracens 25 Falcons 3

Saturday 10 February 2018 Written by: Adam

Newcastle’s four-game Premiership winning streak was brought to a halt by an efficient home side who took what few chances presented themselves on a difficult day for open rugby.

Both sides endured a disrupted start to their front-row stocks, Scott Wilson pulling out just before kick-off while opposite number Vincent Koch lasted just two minutes before limping out of the contest.

Saracens enjoyed the first moment of genuine pressure when they kicked a penalty to the corner, Newcastle standing up to the test by winning a valuable turnover from a maul near their own line.

The home side got the first points on the board after eight minutes when scrum-half Ben Spencer slotted a simple penalty from in front, Joel Hodgson levelling proceedings almost straight from the restart with a penalty from left of centre.

Spencer’s second penalty gave his side a three-point lead as a scrappy opening quarter came to a close, both sides putting plenty of boot to ball in the North London wind and rain.

The first try of the afternoon arrived on 26 minutes when a patient period of pick-and-go work from the home side ended with prop Richard Barrington ploughing over from close range, Newcastle’s well-organised defence absorbing plenty of pressure but finally yielding after almost three minutes inside their own 22.

It became worse on the half-hour when a seemingly-innocuous incident in Newcastle’s in-goal saw the awarding of a penalty try and a sin-bin for Sinoti Sinoti, the Falcons wing controversially deemed to have pushed Liam Williams as he chased a cross-field kick from Alex Lozowski.

That took Saracens’ half-time lead 20-3, Newcastle showing plenty of energy in defence in the early passages after the break as they turned to their bench in search of a foothold into the game.

Given the driving rain and strong wind it was inevitable there would be little in the way of flowing rugby, both teams turning to an aerial bombardment and hard midfield runners for the most part with neither making much in the way of clean breaks.

That almost changed on 57 minutes when busts from Juan Pablo Socino and Alex Tait got the Falcons to within five metres of the try-line, but some quick line-speed from the European champions ensured Nili Latu received man and ball at the same time as the attack was cut off at the crucial time.

Evan Olmstead and Maxime Mermoz entered the fray for the closing quarter as the Falcons looked for further inspiration, but a wet ball and a windy day were proving difficult obstacles for both sets of players to overcome as second-half points continued to prove elusive.

A couple of nice midfield running lines from French veteran Mermoz helped the visitors become a growing influence on the game, but the clock was working against them as they entered the final 10 minutes still trailing by 17.

A difficult task became mission impossible five minutes from time when replacement Max Malins chased a hack-through to score Saracens’ third try in the left corner, rounding off a disappointing day in the capital.

**Newcastle Falcons:** 15 Simon Hammersley (Alex Tait, 18), 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Tom Penny (Maxime Mermoz, 57), 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young (captain, Sonatane Takulua, 46); 1 Rob Vickers (Sam Lockwood, 46), 2 Kyle Cooper (Santiago Socino, 46), 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Calum Green (Evan Olmstead, 57), 5 Will Witty, 6 Ryan Burrows (Callum Chick, 65), 7 Nili Latu, 8 Ally Hogg.

**Scorers -** Penalties: Joel Hodgson.

**Saracens:** 15 Alex Goode, 14 Liam Williams (Nathan Earle, 62), 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Alex Lozowski (Max Malins, 71), 9 Ben Spencer (Tom Whiteley, 72); 1 Richard Barrington (Hayden Thompson-Stringer, 71), 2 Christopher Tolofua (Scott Spurling, 55), 3 Vincent Koch (Juan Figallo, 2), 4 Will Skelton (Sione Vailanu, 52), 5 Nick Isiekwe, 6 Calum Clark, 7 Schalk Burger (Ben Earl, 73), 8 Jackson Wray.

Scorers – Tries: Richard Barrington, Penalty try, Max Malins. Conversions: Ben Spencer. Penalties: Ben Spencer 2.

**Referee:** Christophe Ridley. **Attendance:** 8,194.