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Saints 65 – 26 Falcons: Ten-try Northampton secure semi-final spot

Northampton Saints are into the Gallagher Premiership play-offs for the first time in three years after a romping win over Newcastle Falcons at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens. 

A semi-final at East Midlands rivals Leicester Tigers is what they have to look forward to, following what was a chaotic final home game in charge for Director of Rugby Chris Boyd

Fourteen tries were scored in total in this match, with ten of those coming from Saints, including a hat-trick from Tommy Freeman, who wreaked havoc from either wing. 

It all meant Gloucester’s victory over Saracens was academic and that Boyd’s tenure will continue for one more week, at least. 

At the end of a week in which he announced he would be retiring at the end of the season, Saints legend Tom Wood delivered the match ball before kick-off. 

It was also a landmark afternoon for the man currently in possession of the armband Wood once wore, Lewis Ludlam, as he made his 100th appearance for the Club. 

Saints opened the scoring after four minutes when Newcastle fly-half Joel Hodgson held on under pressure from Sam Matavesi, giving Dan Biggar a straightforward penalty to send between the posts. 

The first try was not too far in coming, either, as a loose pass by Matias Orlando fell into the path of Matavesi, who kicked ahead before winning the race for the ball and grounding it over the line. 

A classy move then ensured the lead was extended on 19 minutes, with Biggar the architect as his pass sent Fraser Dingwall through a gap and he timed his pass inside to put Alex Coles in the clear. 

After some of the fraught matches of recent times, Saints were making life easier for themselves and were 22-0 up after 24 minutes when Matavesi broke off a driving maul to score his second try. 

Newcastle then got themselves off the mark when their captain Callum Chick burst onto Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti’s pass from around 40 metres before stepping past George Furbank for a fine individual effort. 

That was nothing compared to the move that brought Saints their bonus point, however, one that was started by Matavesi, who was seemingly everywhere. 

He popped the ball inside for Api Ratuniyarawa who, in his six years at the Gardens, cannot have gone on too many charges like the one that saw him tear down the left before passing inside for Coles, who quickly moved the ball on to give Alex Mitchell an easy finish. 

Newcastle then lost lock Greg Peterson to the sin bin for an uppercut to Ludlam before Saints rounded off a near-perfect first half when slick hands down the left led to a walk-in for Freeman and a big 36-7 lead at the break. 

Newcastle ate away at that after the restart, however, as they were first awarded a penalty try when Mitchell was judged to have tackled George McGuigan into touch from an offside position, costing him a yellow card. 

While he was off the field, Jamie Blamire went over off the back of a driving maul and when Joel Hodgson’s long pass allowed Adam Radwan to score in the right-hand corner, the gap was suddenly down to 36-26. 

The nerves were settled on the hour mark, thought, when Rory Hutchinson slid in down the right after some good handling by Juarno Augustus, Matt Proctor and Biggar. 

The other significant development from this phase was Robinson receiving a red card for a head-on-head collision with Biggar during the build-up, thus freeing up even more space than there already was. 

Saints went from end to end for their next score, beginning with Emmanuel Iyogun ripping the ball close to his own line and ending with Furbank sending Freeman streaking clear from halfway. 

Freeman then completed his hat-trick in the 68th minute, almost effortlessly gathering his own kick ahead before sauntering over to take his tally of tries for the season up to a dozen. 

There was no let-up from the hosts, with Courtnall Skosan chasing down Augustus’ kick ahead to get in on the act, with Ludlam then rounding off his big day with a try of his own off the final play.

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