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Match Report: Northampton Saints 32 – 31 Newcastle Falcons

Northampton Saints withstood a second-half comeback from visitors Newcastle Falcons to triumph 32-31 in a nail-biting Gallagher Premiership clash at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

The men in Black, Green and Gold trailed 14-13 at the interval, despite stretching out to a 13-0 lead thanks to scores from Ollie Sleightholme and Sam Matavesi, as Tom Penny’s double brought the visitors back into a slender advantage.

The second half followed a similar pattern as tries from Tom Collins, Juarno Augustus and Sleightholme secured a bonus point for Northampton, although Falcons hit back again through Mateo Carreras, Jamie Blamire and George Wacokecoke to set up a tense finish – but Saints won out to seal all five points courtesy of a breakdown penalty with the clock in the red.


Saints started much the brighter side and dominated the early exchanges, culminating in a landmark try for Sleightholme – who crossed in the fifth minute on his 50th appearance for Northampton after James Grayson and Rory Hutchinson combined down the right-hand side.

On 11 minutes, a big carry from David Ribbans gave the hosts some momentum, and after they worked the ball wide it was skipper Fraser Dingwall who drew the last man and slipped the ball to Matavesi who scored in the left corner.

Rory Hutchinson created some trouble for Newcastle on 16 minutes, chipping over the top and forcing Sean Robinson to carry the ball over his own line, resulting in a five-metre scrum.

Saints never relinquished the territory from there and a few minutes later Grayson chipped over a penalty to make it 13-0 as Falcons infringed in front of the posts with Saints inches from the line.

It continued to be one-way traffic as Tom Collins won a breakdown penalty on 27 minutes inside the Falcons’ 22, but as Saints kicked to the corner, the maul was halted and turned over – which proved to be something of a turning point.

On 31 minutes, Penny crossed under the posts after Newcastle put together their best passage of play of the match and built multiple phases, before eventually Carreras slipped around a ruck and through a gap to offload to the onrushing fullback.

Adam Radwan almost scored five minutes later after Carreras and Matthew Dalton carried well upfield, but the TMO confirmed the England wing was tackled into touch before he could reach the whitewash.

However, after multiple penalties against Saints in their own 22, eventually Ribbans was yellow carded with the clock in the red, and moments later Radwan’s offload released Penny again who jinked his way over the line with the final play of the half – with Connon’s conversion securing a one-point lead for Falcons as the sides headed into the sheds.


Newcastle suffered a blow just after the break as Sebastian de Chaves was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, and with both teams down to 14, Northampton retook the lead.

From the penalty, Saints’ maul was halted but the hosts recycled the ball and Aaron Hinkley offloaded brilliantly for Mitchell to fling the ball wide to Collins in acres of space.

Grayson this time landed the conversion to take the score to 20-14, and things got worse for Falcons a few minutes later as Ben Stevenson put in a high shot on Hutchinson and was yellow carded.

Two more tries followed for Northampton within five minutes. First, Alex Coles spotted an overlap on the blindside and when the ball found its way to Augustus via Grayson, the big No.8 rode a couple of tackles to score in the corner.

Then on 53 minutes, Saints put together their best spell of possession of the match, relentlessly building phases and generating quick ball for Sleightholme to cross for his second of the afternoon in the right corner.

At 32-14, it looked like the writing was on the wall for Newcastle, but the visitors dug in and made it a nervous last few minutes with three tries in quick succession.

Carreras scored a wonder try just past the hour mark, collecting a kick over the top and scything through the midfield before using his extreme pace to run in untouched.

Following a 50-22 kick, Blamire then rumbled over the whitewash at the back of a maul, before Callum Braley’s box kick was charged down and Wacokecoke then burst through a gap to score once Falcons had recycled the ball.

However Saints managed the closing minutes of the match well, earning some territory and winding down the clock, before giving up a scrum penalty in the final seconds. While Newcastle looked to work the ball upfield, Northampton’s defence held firm and Alfie Petch and Lewis Ludlam combined to win a turnover penalty with the clock in the red.


SAINTS: Furbank, Collins, Dingwall (c), Hutchinson, Sleightholme, Grayson, Mitchell; A Waller, Matavesi, Hill, Ribbans, Moon, Coles, Hinkley, Augustus
Replacements: Smith, E Waller, Petch, Salakaia-Loto, Ludlam, Braley, Proctor, Hendy

FALCONS: Penny (c), Radwan, Stevenson, Lucock, Carreras, Connon, Stuart; Brocklebank, McGuigan (c), Palframan, Dalton, de Chaves, Robinson, Collett, Lockwood
Replacements: Blamire, Mulipola, Tampin, Merrick, Pepper, Young, Schoeman, Wacokecoke

Referee: Jack Makepeace

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