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Collins hattrick keeps Saints' play-off hopes alive

A first-half Tom Collins hattrick sealed an impressive away victory over Newcastle Falcons to keep Northampton Saints firmly in the hunt for a Gallagher Premiership play-off place.

Newcastle had won this fixture for the past six occasions – a record going back to 2016 – but it was the visiting side who came away with a vital bonus point win in a breathless game at Kingston Park, securing their third straight away win in the league. 

Saints went into half time with a 21-point lead thanks to Collins’ imperious display, but the game was far from dead. Whatever Newcastle Director of Rugby Dean Richards said to his side at the break definitely galvanised them as they counterpunched their way back into the match with tries from Rodney Ah You and Sonatane Takulua to close the gap to seven points and set up a nerve-wracking final quarter.

But a resolute Saints defence dug deep before Alex Mitchell’s intercept pass killed the game with just three minutes remaining. The win sees Chris Boyd's men move up to fourth place in the Gallagher Premiership on 51 points as things stand. 

An ill-disciplined start from the visitors gifted Falcons three early penalties, one of which was straight in front and Newcastle were on the board first, 3-0.

But Saints hit back immediately with a wonderful solo effort from Collins who started and finished a move from inside his own half to score the first of his three first-half tries. 

A Dan Biggar penalty kept the scoreboard ticking for Saints before Collin’s second with just a quarter of the match played. The wing seized on an offload from Taqele Naiyaravoro who had romped through the Falcons' defence to create space for Collins to run in and touch down.  

And the wing dotted down for his third to complete his hattrick just before the break when he profited from scrum half Cobus Reinach’s sniping run which had opened up the home side’s defensive line just inside the away side's half. Collins first half hattrick rounded of an impressive half of rugby for the visitors and a commanding 21-point lead.

After the break a rejuvenated Newcastle struck back first through from prop Ah You as they barged themselves close and then Takalua to put themselves back within a score.

But resolute, Saints kept coming and it was to be a scrum-half interception that earned the men in Black, Green and Gold the all-important bonus point. This week though, it was Mitchell who picked the ball out of the air and dashed in for the score. Biggar's conversion put the score to 31-17 in Saints' favour and with the clock running down, Biggar sent the ball into the stands to secure Saints' third straight away win in a row - something they haven't done since 2014 - and a place in the top four.