With both sides intent on playing ambitious and positive rugby the sold-out Gardens crowd was treated to nine tries and 70 points in all.
Although the hosts ran in some spectacular scores, none more so than Stephen Myler’s 14th-minute try that involved half the team in a 50-metre move, they just could not shake the Falcons loose. That was despite opening up a 22-point lead just before the hour mark, when the visitors’ pack conceded a penalty try that added to earlier scores from Myler, George Pisi and Calum Clark to give Saints the bonus point.
However two converted tries in three minutes from George McGuigan and Alex Tait pulled Newcastle back into the contest, and it was not until Luther Burrell went over for try number five that the win was put beyond doubt.
“We thought we were going to have a nice, easy 15-to-20 minutes,” Mallinder admitted after the game. “But credit to Newcastle, they did it last week and they did it again. They came back and pushed us close.
“They’ve improved, without a doubt. They’ve got a decent pack and attacked with some intent. We played them at the start of the season and took them apart in the first 20 minutes, and the game was already won.
“They’re different at the moment and tough to beat.”
And while Mallinder said that there was plenty to build on from the attacking side of Saints’ play, there was also a lot to work on, notably in tightening up the defensive aspects.
“In attack there were moments of brilliance and we scored some good tries, and could have scored another two or three,” he added. “So there were some good aspects to that part of our play. To score five tries the way we did was pretty impressive. We’ve got threats all over the field and there was some lovely handling throughout the game.
“But we’re disappointed with some aspects of our defence; we’ve conceded more tries in this last couple of weeks than we have all season, and that’s something we have to sharpen up. We need to make sure we don’t concede from first phase and defend mauls better than we did tonight.
“We’re playing pretty well, but not outstandingly, and so therefore it’s pleasing to be winning and taking five points.”
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The next action at Franklin’s Gardens will be the crunch European Champions Cup Round 6 game against Racing Metro that will decide the destiny of Pool 5 and who qualifies for the quarter finals. Tickets are on sale now; order online 24/7 at www.tinyurl.com/SAI-RAC-1415 using [email protected] to beat the match day queues and save the admin fees!