A disappointing performance and a poignant red card for Kieran Brookes after a questionable clear out on Scott Lawson saw Saints go down to Newcastle Falcons after a late intercept try from Vereniki Goneva earned the travelling side the win.
Newcastle were on top from the off and it was to be the match-winner Goneva that got the Falcons first try up and running. The flying Fijian broke Saints line and made it into the home side’s 22 before being taken down, not, however, before he had offloaded to man-of-the-match Joel Hodgson who scrambled over to get the scoring started.
Saints pushed their guests but little came of their attacks and once the ball found Goneva again the winger made more ground. He sent the ball out wide to Marcus Watson, after covering considerable yards. The Olympian thought he had scored but after the referee Andrew Jackson had consulted the Television Match Official and found obstruction to Luther Burrell in the midfield the score was removed from the scoresheet.
Saints seemed to use this as a wake-up call and the home side worked themselves into a position where Stephen Myler could aim for the posts. The fly-half sent his kick through to get Saints off the mark and narrow the gap to two points.
The men in black, green and gold upped their intensity and began to attack Newcastle’s line. Tom Kessell broke the Falcons line and offloaded cleverly to Ben Nutley.
Burrell found himself past the Newcastle line with ball in hand and sent the ball to Tom Collins on the wing. Collins sent a grubber kick through that looked like it was going to go dead but Ben Foden found his feet for a smart chase and thought he had got a hand to the ball as it went over the line.
After conversing with the TMO, however, Jackson deemed Foden to have knocked the ball on and awarded a scrum to Newcastle.
Saints mounted another good attack but could not get past the Newcastle line. Hodgson sent a penalty through the posts to stretch his side to a whole score but sent his clearing kick straight out moments later to give Saints an attacking line out just outside the Falcon’s 22.
At the breakdown that ensued after the ball was back on the pitch, however, Saints found themselves go down to 14 men for the remainder as Kieran Brookes was sent off the pitch with a red card to his name for a no arms tackle that made contact with the head of Lawson.
The game went into half time with Newcastle a whole score in the lead and a man to the good.
Saints came back from the break with a renewed intensity and pushed themselves close off the back of a lineout deep within Newcastle’s 22. They got over the line and after another consultation with the TMO, Christian Day was awarded Saints 1000th try in Premiership rugby. Myler added the extras to send Saints into the lead for the first time.
The home side continued to push and earned themselves a penalty within Myler’s range moment later. The fly-half duly sent the kick through to extend his side’s lead to a full score.
After that it was all Newcastle and two huge runs from Watson got the away side close to the line on 63 minutes. Replacement number eight Opeti Fonua charged towards the line after a penalty to the away side and got very close. Newcastle set up camp on Saints’ tryline and it was only a matter of time before they got over. Will Witty was the recipient of the score and Hodgson converted to put Newcastle back in the lead again.
Saints responded and a break from Jamie Elliott got them back on the front foot. Attacking into Newcastle’s 22 got them a penalty which Myler sent through the posts to give Saints a one-point lead with ten minutes left.
Saints looked like they were going to hold on and very nearly did but a pass to Elliott found the hands of Goneva. With no one in front of him, the winger sped up the left wing and stepped his way passed Saints’ last man, Ben Foden, to score and ultimately earn his side the win.
4mins FALCONS Try Hodgson 0-5
18mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-5
36mins FALCONS Pen Hodgson 3-8
38mins SAINTS Red card Brookes 3-8
HALF TIME Saints 3 Falcons 8
45mins SAINTS Try Day Con Myler 10-8
52mins SAINTS Pen Myler 13-8
64mins FALCONS Try Witty Con Hodgson 13-15
70mins SAINTS Pen Myler 16-15
75mins FALCONS Try Goneva Con Hodson 16-22
SAINTS – Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Hutchinson, Collins, Myler, Kessell; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Craig, Day, Paterson, Gibson, Nutley
Subs – Clare, E Waller, Hill, Onojaife, Ludlam, Groom, Hanrahan, Wilson
FALCONS – Tait; Goneva, Waldouck, Socino, Watson, Hodgson, Young; Vickers, Lawson, D Wilson, Green, Witty, Chick, M Wilson, Hogg
Subs – Sowrey, Rogers, S Wilson, Civetta, Fonua, Egerton, Connon, Burdon