Northampton Saints outscored their hosts by three tries to one at St James’ Park, but still went down to Newcastle Falcons in an historic clash in the North East.
David Ribbans, Rob Horne, and Nafi Tuitavake all crossed the whitewash for the visitors, although ultimately Saints' ill-discipline cost them as Toby Flood kicked six penalties.
Over 30,000 spectators were in attendance at the home of Newcastle United, and they were in loud voice as Saints were let off the hook just a minute into the game when a Falcons try was chalked off by the TMO.
Sinoti Sinoti raced clear but the ball was knocked on as Piers Francis was tackled to give Northampton a reprieve, however a couple of Saints offences within quick succession moved the hosts up the field, and Flood was able to put his side 3-0 up from the tee.
Saints were on the back foot but Stephan Myler’s try-saving tackle on Sinoti in the sixth minute seemed to spark them into life, with the visitors surging up the pitch via a rolling maul before flinging the ball across the park.
And it was Ribbans who collected the ball at the back of a ruck and palmed away a couple of defenders to score an excellent try.
Myler’s conversion attempt was pushed just right of the uprights, and Saints then gave away a quick penalty with Ben Nutley holding on and there was no hesitation from Flood to make it 6-5.
Falcons struck again in the 22nd minute as Vereniki Goneva scooped the ball out of the back of a ruck and raced straight through a gap to touch down under the posts, with Flood making no mistake with the conversion.
The Falcons No.10 did miss a long-range penalty shortly after however, and Saints punished the mistake as a high cross-field kick from Myler resulted in a try.
Goneva spilled the ball under pressure from George North and Horne, and the Australian pounced to hack through and touch down at the Gallowgate end – Myler this time striking his conversion straight through the posts.
Saints were then twice pinged at the breakdown either side of half-time, and Flood extended the hosts’ lead to seven points from in front of the posts.
But Northampton came to life again shortly after as a brilliant use of the short side saw them with numbers, and great hands from Campese Ma’afu released Nutley and Tuitavake finished off a quality score.
A superb conversion from Myler out wide levelled the scores, but another soft penalty for offside allowed Flood to once again put Falcons ahead before the hour mark.
Myler responded with a penalty of his own after good work from North to set up a grandstand final quarter of an hour at 22-22, but Flood struck the decisive blow from the tee – his sixth penalty of the afternoon – with ten minutes left from all of 47 metres.
And while Northampton won a late penalty which Myler sent up the field for one last lineout play, a knock-on from Saints ended the contest.
FALCONS: Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti, Flood, Young, Lockwood, Cooper, Davison, Green, Robinson, Olmstead, Welch (capt), Latu
Replacements: Lawson, Vickers, Wilson, Witty, Hogg, Stuart, Hodgson, Mermoz
SAINTS: Tuala, Tuitavake, Horne, Francis, North, Myler, Groom, Ma’afu, Haywood, Brookes, Ratuniyarawa, Day (capt), Ribbans, Gibson, Nutley
Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Paterson, Eadie, Reinach, Mallinder, Foden
4’ FALCONS Penalty Flood 3-0
13’ SAINTS Try Ribbans 3-5
14’ FALCONS Penalty Flood 6-5
22’ FALCONS Try Goneva, Conversion Flood 13-5
36’ SAINTS Try Horne, Conversion Myler 13-12
39’ FALCONS Penalty Flood 16-12
HALF-TIME: Falcons 16 – 12 Saints
43’ FALCONS Penalty Flood 19-12
52’ SAINTS Try Tuitavake, Conversion Myler 19-19
56' FALCONS Penalty Flood 22-19
64’ SAINTS Penalty Myler 22-22
67’ FALCONS Penalty Flood 25-22
FULL-TIME: Falcons 25 – 22 Saints