Dec 27, 2014
Newcastle 23 Saracens 25
Saracens survived a spirited late Falcons fightback to beat Newcastle 23-25 at Kingston Park.
Tries from Neil de Kock, Nick Tompkins and Chris Ashton, plus 10 points from Owen Farrell was enough for Mark McCall's men, who held on to win in the dying seconds when Juan Pablo Socino's conversion attempt drifted wide.
In the prematch build-up the home side announced that the festive fixture between the two sides would attract the Falcons' biggest gate in six years. The 9,185 crowd packed into Kingston Park were nearly treated to an early try after Juan Pablo Socino kicked an early penalty goal, only for wing Alex Tuilagi to put a foot in touch after intercepting Jacques Burger’s pass.
The Falcons, spurred on by their home support, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and territory in the first twenty minutes, but committed defending from the likes of back rower Jacques Burger and inside centre Owen Farrell continued to thwart the North East side.
Saracens' committed defence would be rewarded when in a rare foray into the Falcons' 22, Owen Farrell broke the Newcastle defence with a classy show and go. The England international fed wing Chris Wyles who was held up metres from the try line. Saracens recycled the ball and Neil de Kock finished in the left hand corner - Farrell failed to land a difficult conversion.
As the half continued, Socino and Farrell traded penalties, before the sides went into the warmth of the Kingston Park dressing rooms with the scores 6-10 in favour of the visitors.
The second-half burst into life when Falcons winger Sinoti Sinoti raced into a loose ball to score. With the ball hitting Newcastle's 3G surface from a failed Saracens midfield move, the dangerous wing hacked on the ball and outpacing the covering Marcelo Bosch, dotted the ball down to score. Socino converted.
Saracens hit back when replacement centre Nick Tompkins showed great strength and determination to score on the hour. Minutes later Farrell added another penalty to make the score 13-20.
The away side then looked to have won the game when Chris Ashton sneaked over to score in the corner in the 74th minute after Richard Wigglesworth fed the prolific finisher on the back of a devastating Saracens driving maul - Farrell failed to convert.
Then the game descended into late drama. With Saracens now pinned back in their own 22, replacement three quarter Chris Harris hoovered up a loose ball to score with two minutes left on the clock. Crucially though, Socino could not convert.
With the game in its final stages, Harris repeated his earlier feat scoring as the clock reached 80 minutes. Again, Socino could not add the valuable extras much to Saracens' relief.
Full-Time: Newcastle 23 Saracens 25.
Newcastle Falcons: Tait; Sinoti, Powell, Socino, Tuilagi; Catterick, Blair; Vickers, Lawson, S. Wilson; Green, Thompson; M. Wilson, Welch, Hogg.
Replacements: McGuigan, Frym, Brookes, Furno, Saull, Tipuna, Harris, Penny.
Tries: Sinoti, Harris x2
Conversions: Socino x 1
Penalties: Socino x3
Saracens: Goode; Ashton, Bosch, Farrell, Wyles; Hodgson, de Kock; M Vunipola, George, Johnston; Hamilton, Hargreaves; B Vunipola, Burger, Joubert.
Replacements: Sharman, Barrington, Du Plessis, Itoje, Wray, Wigglesworth, Tompkins, Strettle.
Tries: De Kock, Tompkins, Ashton
Conversion: Farrell x1
Penalties: Farrell x 3