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Match Report: Newcastle Falcons 28 – 31 Northampton Saints

Northampton Saints boosted their hopes of a Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final berth with a battling 28 – 31 bonus-point win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

In a rollercoaster clash, Geordie Irvine and Brandon Nansen’s first Saints tries were added to by Courtnall Skosan as Saints raced into a 0 – 21 lead.

But Falcons hit back in the second quarter to stun the visitors and go in at the break on level terms thanks to three tries of their own.

Another first time try-scorer, Robbie Smith, edged the visitors back ahead though and with Joel Matavesi remaning perfect from the tee with 11 points, Northampton held on for a precious victory.

FIRST HALF

The hosts were reduced to 14 men early on, Guy Pepper shown yellow in just the third minute for killing a brilliant Saints move, Ethan Grayson the catalyst.

The men in purple weren’t to be denied though and having scrummed the resulting penalty, Irvine piled over and Matavesi found the target with the conversion.

The quick Saints start continued when Matavesi sent a penalty to the corner and Nansen produced a bullish finish off the back of the five-metre lineout.

With the first two tries stemming from brute force, the next was an absolute beauty from the backs as Saints’ wingers combined in a scorching counter-attack. Tom Collins picked the perfect moment to step through the Falcons’ line at speed, while Skosan’s finish cutting in from the left was every bit as scintillating.

Matavesi’s third conversion of the afternoon was a given from straight in front and took Saints 21 points to the good with barely 20 minutes on the clock.

Given a mountain to climb, Newcastle responded well and after some tidy phase play drew a penalty, Jamie Blamire was driven over for their opening score.

The gap closed further when Falcons made good of Freddie Lockwood’s break in midfield, Zach Kerr eventually crossing on the left to bring it back to a one score game just five minutes before the break.

And the home side would draw level on the stroke of half-time, completing a remarkable turnaround in fortunes as Pepper crashed through and Tian Schoeman nailed his third conversion of the night.

SECOND HALF

The interval proved to be a welcome respite for Saints and with momentum reset it was they who eventually went back to the front with a well-worked bonus-point try.

James Ramm and Collins broke up the left and with a penalty advantage coming it was hooker Smith who darted through for the visitors.

Matavesi resumed his good form from the tee, first slotting the simple conversion and then nailing a more testing kick from around 40 metres when Falcons defenders failed to roll.

That opened up a 10-point lead, a superb tackle and turnover from Matavesi keeping it that way when Nathan Earle sprinted clear for Newcastle.

But as Saints attacked looking for a killer score, a dropped ball was pounced on by Vereimi Qorowale, who scooped up and ran the length to bring the hosts right back into it once more at 28-31.

That’s as far as the Falcons comeback would go, however, a big scrum against the head denying the home side a chance to attack one final time.

Skipper for the day Callum Braley punted the ball out to end a breathless contest and leave Saints waiting on results elsewhere to determine their Cup fate.

Having all but secured their Cup semi-final spot, Saints take a break from league action next weekend to host Barbarian F.C. at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens for an exhibition match. 

LINE-UPS

FALCONS: Tait (c), Stephens, Kerr, Greenlaw, Earle, Schoeman, Barton, Cade, Blamire, Tampin, Berrisford, de Chaves, Lockwood, Pepper, Marshall
Replacements: Maddison, Dormer, Palframan, Ward, Tiffen, Nordli-Kelemeti, Thomas, Qorowale

SAINTS: Ramm, Collins, E. Grayson, Litchfield, Skosan, J. Matavesi, Braley (c), E. Waller, R. Smith, Painter, Nansen, Lockett, Sylvester, Scott-Young, Irvine
Replacements: Burns, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Petch, Atuanya, Pollock, McParland, Thame, Hendy

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