Apr 20, 2014
Saracens see off spirited Falcons
Saracens beat Newcastle Falcons 18-23 in a tight and hotly contested affair at Kingston Park.
Tries from Tim Streather and Ben Ransom and 13 points from the boot of Charlie Hodgson was enough to see off a spirited Newcastle side fighting to avoid relegation from the Aviva Premiership.
Saracens named a much changed side from the team that beat Northampton last weekend, but Mark McCall could still call upon the like of British and Irish Lions duo Matt Stevens and Charlie Hodgson, as well as England internationals Alex Goode and Richard Wigglesworth, with the 31-year-old scrum-half captaining the side in Steve Borthwick’s absence.
It was the home side who were quickest out of the proverbial blocks. They say here at Kingston Park that Sinoti Sinoti is so good they named him twice and judging by his seventh minute finish you can see why, as the bulky yet fleet footed winger scorched over for the first try of the game. Falcons fly-half Joel Hodgson was errant with the conversion.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse for Saracens when winger Jack Wilson was yellow carded for a collision in the air with Newcastle full-back Alex Tait. Despite Dean Richards’ sides numerical advantage, Saracens, inspired by full-back Alex Goode, roared back into the game with a score of their own.
Collecting yet another high bomb, Goode (a returnee to the Saracens starting XV) showed his international class by leading the Falcons defence a merry dance to find captain Richard Wigglesworth who after linking up with Jackson Wray and Matt Stevens spread the ball wide to Alistair Hargreaves who did well to find Tim Streather who crossed for his first Premiership try of his career. Charlie Hodgson converted the score and added a penalty minutes later to extend the away side’s lead to five points.
Saracens went close to extending their lead in the 33rd minute, but Michael Tagicakibau just couldn’t hold onto Alex Goode’s bullet pass. The Fijian flyer was again close when he nearly collected Charlie Hodgson’s clever grubber kick, but the Falcons cover defence was quicker to the bouncing ball.
Newcastle hit back when Joel Hodgson landed a well struck penalty with two minutes to go in the first half as Saracens went into the break 8-10 up.
Saracens started the second forty with a penalty immediately from the restart; after Jack Wilson showed fine athleticism to pat back Charlie Hodgson’s hanging kick. Newcastle infringed at the breakdown to give the veteran Sarries playmaker the easiest of penalty attempts which he duly dispatched.
Newcastle missed the chance to return fire from the kicking tee, as Joel Hodgson dragged a kickable attempt wide as Saracens struggled to exit their own half, but the Falcons No.10 made no mistake minutes later landing a well taken penalty to reduce Saracens lead to two points.
The north easterners were in the ascendency as Saracens struggled to clear their lines and enjoy any possession in the Falcons half. McCall rotated his steam, and with Gill and Du Plessis providing fresh impetus in the front row. The Sarries set-piece was beginning to reaffirm its dominance and on the 65th minute the Saracens eight would provide Hodgson with another chance to kick at goal. The Premiership record point’s scorer obliged to give his side a five point lead.
Newcastle were chasing the game, and in their desperation a loose Joel Hodgson pass found replacement Ben Ransom who raced 60+ metres to score. Hodgson slotted the conversion.
In the closing moments Phi Godman crossed for the Falcons, in the process securing the losing bonus point for Dean Richard side.
Mark McCall’s side’s attention now moves to Clermont Auvergne in the semi-final of the Heineken Cup at Twickenham on Saturday.