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Falcons 8 – 44 Saints: Northampton back on track with bonus-point triumph in Newcastle

Northampton Saints reignited their push for a Gallagher Premiership top-four place with a convincing 44-8 victory over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

The men in Black, Green and Gold built up a commanding 20-3 lead in the opening 40 minutes, with wingers Tom Collins and Courtnall Skosan crossing for tries and fly-half Dan Biggar adding ten points from the kicking tee.

Saints then hit the accelerator after half-time, with scores from Sam Matavesi and George Furbank wrapping up the try bonus point, before Tom James rounded off a superb team performance with a late try to take Northampton past the 40-point mark.

The hosts started the game on the front foot with an early chance, taking a shot into the corner after Paul Hill was penalised for killing the ball at a breakdown, but Tom Wood got up to disrupt the lineout and Biggar was able to clear.

In the eighth minute a remarkable break from Saints saw Alex Waller hack the ball forward twice, but the prop could not apply the finishing touch inside the 22 as the defence recovered and won a penalty over the ball.

Newcastle opened the scoring with a quarter of an hour played, as David Ribbans was caught offside in front of the posts, and this time Joel Hodgson opted for goal and made no mistake from the edge of the 22.

Falcons looked to be in a threatening position again on 22 minutes with a scrum inside Saints’ half, but as they put the ball through the hands, a massive shot from Fraser Dingwall on Hodgson saw the ball go loose. Rory Hutchinson hacked on and Collins was able to gather and score the game’s first try just left of the posts.

Biggar’s conversion took the scoreline to 7-3, and shortly after Nathan Earle was penalised for obstruction to hand Northampton field position, before another penalty under the posts allowed the visitors’ fly-half to extend the lead.

After a series of scuffles after the whistle, eventually referee Matthew Carley lost patience and sent both Phillip van der Walt and Teimana Harrison to the sin bin.

But the extra space seemed to suit Saints, and in a broken field, hooker Matavesi showed some Fijian flair to side-step two tacklers and draw the last defender, before releasing Skosan to canter in under the posts from 40 metres out.

Biggar again converted and, with five minutes of the half remaining, Trevor Davison came in at the side to give the No.10 another simple shot at goal to take Northampton into the sheds 20-3 to the good.

Saints were dealt an injury blow as Dingwall was unable to return after the break, but Tom Litchfield entered the action and the visitors picked up where they left off with a drop goal from Biggar.

Falcons however hit back with 55 minutes on the clock, as hooker George McGuigan burrowed over at the back of a rolling maul after Waller was penalised for a high tackle just inside the Saints half.

But Saints were ruthless as they got themselves back into the Newcastle 22 with a couple of penalties before Matavesi stretched over after a Northampton driving maul took them just short of the line.

And the men in Black, Green and Gold wrapped up the bonus point moments later, as a length-of-the-field break saw Litchfield cross halfway before finding Collins outside him; the winger’s chip over the top sat up perfectly for Furbank, who finished with aplomb.

Biggar knocked over yet another conversion – his seventh successful kick from as many attempts – to take the score to 37-8, before being withdrawn as Director of Rugby Chris Boyd unloaded the bench, throwing on Ehren Painter (for his 50th Premiership appearance), James Fish, Emmanuel Iyogun, Alex Coles, Karl Wilkins, Tom James, and Tommy Freeman.

There was still time for one final salvo from Saints; after Lewis Ludlam won a breakdown penalty on his own five-metre line with four minutes remaining, Northampton broke again and Furbank scythed through a gap before finding James on his shoulder to score.

The result moved Boyd’s side back up to fifth in the Premiership standings, ahead of the next European break – with a home Champions Cup clash against Ulster now on the horizon next week.

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