Dec 06, 2015
Late Billy blast secures bonus point win
A late Billy Vunipola try plus 21-points from Charlie Hodgson saw Saracens extend their unbeaten run to eleven games with a four try 38-3 win away to Newcastle Falcons in round six of the Aviva Premiership.
Tries from Samu Vunisa, Nick Tompkins, plus a last minute intercept score from Charlie Hodgson looked like that was that for Sarries, until Billy Vunipola powered over for a bonus point try after a stunning Ben Ransom break in the 80th minute put Saracens in the Falcons red-zone.
After Vunisa’s and Tompkins scores, the evergreen outside half Hodgson’s intercept score sparked off a frantic few minutes with Sarries chasing a fourth score.
After testing out the Falcons’ defence for multiple phases, a sumptuous around the back offload from captain Jamie George released replacement wing Ben Ransom, who showed superb pace to race away. Covering wing, and ex-Sarrie Marcus Watson did well to haul him down metres from the line.
Sarries recycled, and after Newcastle were adjudged to have killed the ball, Billy Vunipola tapped the penalty and charged to the line, skittling a number of would-be tacklers over before dotting the ball down much to the delight of the travelling Sarries faithful. Goode converted.
Leading up to the game Saracens hadn’t tasted defeat at the hands of the Falcons for six successive years. Twelve times Newcastle had faced them, but to no avail.
Under the direction of skipper Jamie George, Saracens fielded a youthful side that boasted ten Academy players in their starting line-up. 25-year old George, who has signed a multi-year contract extension in the week leading up to the game, was captaining the club for the second time this season having previously worn the captain’s armband away to Gloucester earlier this season.
The opening exchanges were dominated by the Falcons hitting the long ball, in tactics that wouldn’t have looked that out of place in Sam Allardyce’s ill -fated spell at St James’ Park in 2007. The Sarries back field though were up for the job, with Alex Goode and Chris Wyles fielding ‘garryowen’s‘ and’ box-kicks’ with reassuring confidence.
After the initial spell of Falcons pressure, Saracens would draw first blood. On his full club debut, Italy international Samu Vunisa would burrow over for a try in tenth minute after a scrum penalty gifted Sarries with a chance to set-up a catch-and-drive from close out. Hodgson converted with the aid of the posts.
Hodgson sent over a penalty in the 17th minute to give Sarries a 10-0 lead. Falcons’ Tom Catterick hit his own three pointer for the Falcons in reply after Juan Figallo was offside minutes later.
Again, the Falcons applied the kick and rush, looking to to boot to ball at every opportunity to drag the Premiership champions in a territorial arm-wrestle only for Saracens to absorb the pressure.
Before half-time, the dead-eyed Hodgson would kick another penalty to give Sarries a 13-3 lead at the break.
Sarries very nearly crossed for their second try of the afternoon just after the break, but a Charlie Hodgson cross-field kick just evaded Mike Ellery, with the bounce of the ball going in the favour of covering full-back, Alex Tait.
Sarries added three more points when Hodgson sent over another penalty after Falcons’ back-rower Nili Latu failed to roll away at the ruck.
The visitors introduced powerhouses Mako and Billy Vunipola, and wily scrumhalf Neil de Kock from the bench. De Kock upped the tempo. His snipping and scurrying around the fringes sparked Saracens into life as they began to get some front-foot ball.
It was from a De Kock snipe that Saracens were able to build for their next score. After the 37-year old scrumhalf fed Billy Vunipola, the England No8 rampaged his way through the Falcons backline. Vunipola fed the supporting Maro Itoje who carried into contact.
Sarries spread the ball wide, and after Jamie George was held up just inches from the line, Nick Tompkins rushed in to collect the ball and wriggle over for his second try in as many visits to Kingston Park. Hodgson converted, again, with the aid of the posts.
Sarries were in complete control at this point, and Hodgson added a final penalty before the drama began.
First, Hodgson picked off a Juan Pablo Socino’s speculative pass to scuttle away from 50 metres to score. Hodgson rushed the conversion, knowing with just 40 seconds on the clock that time was of the essence.
The Falcons kicked off, and Sarries looked to build from deep. Cue some magic from Ransom, and some late-drama from Billy Vunipola.
Final Score: Newcastle 3 Saracens 38
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Belisario Agulla, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Michael Young, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Jon Welsh, 4 Sean Robinson, 5 Calum Green, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch, 8 Nili Latu
Replacements 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Taione Vea, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Sonatane Takulua 22 Craig Willis, 23 Chris Harris.
Saracens: 15 Alex Goode; 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Mike Ellery; 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Spencer; 1 Richard Barrington, 2 Jamie George ©, 3 Juan Figallo; 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis; 6 Jackson Wray, 7 Will Fraser, 8 Samuela Vunisa.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Neil De Kock, 22 Ben Ransom, 23 Tim Streather.