Although Newcastle had the better of the early exchanges in terms of territory and possession, it was Saints who had the more promising charges, one Samu Manoa charge in particular taking them to within sight of the whitewash.
And it was the hosts who got on the scoreboard first, Stephen Myler on target with a straightforward penalty from in front of the sticks with nine minutes on the clock. This was followed by a Luther Burrell charge only stopped by a good tackle from Alex Tait.
But the pressure was building, Saints winning a string of penalties and kicking them to touch. They were also using the advantage to try and stretch the visitors, with one delicate Myler chip just evading the diving Ken Pisi.
The breakthrough came five minutes after Myler’s penalty, the fly half finishing off a sensational move. A missed Falcons touchfinder allowed George North and Ben Foden to stretch the play, and within 30 second Saints were over the whitewash, George Pisi finding Myler with the last of several lovely offloads in the move.
The touchline conversion sailed between the uprights, but if anyone at the packed Gardens thought that Newcastle were going to roll over they were rudely awaken at the end of the first quarter when Chris Harris continued his form from Round 11 by diving onto Tom Catterick’s perfectly placed grubber for his third try in two weeks.
Catterick’s conversion was on the money, too, and after another lovely kick into space he looked for all intents and purposes to be putting Saints under more pressure by getting into Myler’s face in his 22. But while the latter’s footwork took him clear it was temporary respite, and eight minutes after Newcastle had crossed the whitewash they were level, Catterick on target after Christian Day was penalised at a breakdown.
Day almost redeemed himself immediately during a searing attack down the blindside in traffic. Ken Pisi put Day away on the wing, Mike Haywood powered through two defenders, returning the ball to Day. The lock was pulled down short, but his inside ball hit the deck instead of the hands and instead of a Saints score the play brought a Falcons scrum.
Mark Wilson picked and went, and Manoa’s tackle brought a penalty. But the American would have the last laugh when he combined with North to put his team on the front foot once again. Josh Furno’s high tackle was high, and once again Saints tried to play with the advantage. This time the tactic succeeded, Myler sliding through a kick for George Pisi to touch down.
It was the last score of an entertaining half, and it took only five minutes after the resumption of play for there to be another, Myler bisecting the posts after the pack had won a penalty with their power at scrum time.
Two minutes later it came close to being more, Manoa fumbling the ball while diving for the line after a strong maul was followed by nice handling from Lee Dickson and Ken Pisi. That brought a scrum for the visitors, but when the clearance missed touch it gifted Saints a superb position, with Pisi combining with Foden before unselfishly feeding Calum Clark for the try.
It was a lovely try that typified the Saints’ patience and accuracy, and took the team three scores clear in the process.
The bonus point try came eight minutes later, and while the previous three had showcased the handling the fourth was reward for strong mauling from the pack. Newcastle could not cope with the gathering speed and conceded a penalty try, which in turn handed Myler the simplest of chances to reach the 2,000-point mark, which he duly did.
However again Newcastle came back, their pack getting their own back by driving George McGuigan over the line a handful of minutes after coming on as replacement hooker. And three minutes later there was even better to come from the Falcons, some superb handling out of contact taking the visitors from one end of the field for another try, finished by Tait in the corner.
Catterick’s conversion brought Newcastle to an eight-point deficit, but if there was any doubt about the result it was extinguished when North scooped up a Foden grubber to feed Burrell on the inside for try number five.
But still the Falcons kept on coming, and for all their attacking intent with ball in hand their bonus point try came from more forward power and organisation, Richard Mayhew coming up with the ball after a close-range maul had gone over the line to end the scoring and give their team a deserved reward for their efforts.
9mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-0
14mins SAINTS Try Myler Con Myler 10-0
20mins NEWC Try Harris Con Catterick 10-7
28mins NEWC Pen Catterick 10-10
32mins SAINTS Try G Pisi Con Myler 17-10
HALF-TIME SAINTS 17 NEWCASTLE 10
45mins SAINTS Pen Myler 20-10
47mins NEWC Yellow card Furno
50mins SAINTS Try Clark 25-10
58mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Myler 32-10
61mins NEWC Try McGuigan Con Catterick 32-17
64mins NEWC Try Tait Con Catterick 32-24
70mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Wilson 39-24
76mins NEWC Try Mayhew Con Catterick 39-31
FULL-TIME SAINTS 39 NEWCASTLE 31