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Saints hit bonus form against Falcons

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

The Friday night results meant that the Saints and Falcons went into the Aviva Premiership Rugby Round 7 match-up as neighbours in the league table, separated by just four points.


And this closeness was reflected in the opening exchanges. A quick pre-match shower may have made the pitch a touch greasy on top, but both teams showed a willingness to mix play between forwards and backs and earned their reward for respective fly halves, Ryan Lamb and Jimmy Gopperth.


The breakthrough came in the 13th minute, courtesy of the first genuine mistake of the game. The Falcons had done well to recover a miss-thrown lineout in their own 22, but when Chris Pilgrim dallied with the clearance it allowed the Saints defenders to get set.


Soane Tonga'uiha, who earlier had sparked the best move of the match thus far, provided an obstacle too large for Pilgrim to avoid, and when the ball was recovered by Phil Dowson the Saints had too many men out wide for anything but a try to come, Tom May crashing over.


Corne Uys, who had shown how dangerous he could be with ball in hand in the lead up to Gopperth's penalty, had come close to preventing May from scoring, but he was bypassed in the Saints' next dangerous attack at the end of the first quarter.


Again there was some great interplay with forwards and backs getting over the gain line, but while the Falcons held this one out the ever-increasing tide of black, green and gold was looking ominous for the Geordies. So when May reached over for his second try and a 15-3 lead it was nothing more than the Saints deserved.


Then having got themselves into this position of control the Saints began to unravel a touch. Two more penalties from Gopperth sandwiched a yellow card for Courtney Lawes - the second row falling foul of referee JP Doyle for a late shoulder charge on Jeremy Manning - and the visitors were also looking dangerously optimistic when Lamb wound up for one of his trademark long passes.


Nevertheless Falcons could only manage three more points while Lawes was off the field, Gopperth sending a drop goal between the sticks, and when the Saints piled on pressure with the final scrum of the half Lamb kicked his second penalty to send the teams in for their mid-match chat with Saints leading 18-12.


Having taken 13 minutes to breach the Falcons' rearguard in the first half the Saints took just 160 seconds after the break to cross for their third try. Again it showed the hosts' ability to take advantage of an opponent's mistake, Lamb going straight through the Falcons' midfield after Joe Graham had overthrown a lineout.


Jon Clarke was in support and although he could have gone for the line himself he unselfishly put the unmarked Vasily Artemyev over for his first Aviva Premiership Rugby try. The same combination gave Saints the bonus point 10 minutes later, but they owed their score to the forwards, who by now were well on top.


The power coming from the scrum in particular was immense, with the rolling maul not far behind. And while Gopperth tried his best to stem the tide with a penalty on the hour he was powerless to stop Chris Ashton scoring between the posts. Travis Perkins man of the match Lamb slotted the extras and the job was just about done.


There were 18 minutes still to play, however, and while the flurry of replacements made little difference to the direction of traffic it took until the 76th minute for the next try to come.


Again it came from a Falcons fumble, but Ashton's skill in picking up the ball off his bootlaces at pace was worth a score by itself, and his run in and swallow dive raised the roof - more than once, thanks to the big screen replays! - and put a nice shine on the final result.


REFEREE JP DOYLE


TIMELINE

3mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 3-0

6mins FALC Pen Gopperth 3-3

13mins SAINTS Try May 8-3

20mins SAINTS Try May Con Lamb 15-3

25mins FALC Pen Gopperth 15-6

27mins SAINTS Yellow card Lawes

28mins FALC Pen Gopperth 15-9

34mins SAINTS Miss DG Lamb

37mins FALC DG Gopperth 15-12

40mins SAINTS Pen Lamb 18-12

HALF-TIME SAINTS 18 FALCONS 12

44mins SAINTS Try Artemyev 23-12

54mins SAINTS Try Artemyev Con Lamb 30-12

60mins FALC Pen Gopperth 30-15

62mins SAINTS Try Ashton Con Lamb 37-15

76mins SAINTS Try Ashton Con Myler 44-15

FULL-TIME SAINTS 44 FALCONS 15