Gloucester v Bath, English Premiership, February 28
Saints suffer rare home defeat
February 28, 2009
Jamie Noon of Newcastle gets away from Northampton's Neil Best
© Getty Images
Resurgent Newcastle ran in three tries in the opening 11 minutes to end Northampton's long unbeaten home run a week short of its second anniversary.
The Saints, undefeated at home since March 2007, were looking to stretch their record to 30 matches but an appalling start left them with too much to do after they fell 19-0 behind. Northampton, whose impressive home record included last season in National Division One following their relegation, tried desperately to retrieve a dire situation.
But the Falcons, whose impressive mid-season revival has banished fears of relegation, dug in to secure their fourth successive Guinness Premiership victory.
Newcastle struck the opening blow in the fifth minute. Their forwards, attacking down the blindside from a scrum, caught Northampton napping as back-row men Adam Balding and Brent Wilson provided the initial thrusts before prop Jon Golding drove over low from close range.
Three minutes later Saints once again paid for their poor defensive play. Former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman supplied the surge down the middle to release Wilson and, despite being on the receiving end from a high challenge from Chris Ashton, the flanker found Tom May who flighted his kick to the unmarked Danny Williams on the right wing. With referee Dean Richards playing the advantage, former rugby league player Williams was presented with a simple catch and touchdown as Ashton desperately tried to scramble back into position.
Newcastle struck again to stretch the lead to 19-0 in the 11th minute after Courtney Lawes knocked on as he tried to take a difficult pass near the halfway line. May scooped up the loose ball and jinked around Northampton's former Falcons scrum-half Lee Dickson and lock Christian Day before racing 50 metres to touch down between the posts and leave himself a simple conversion.
Northampton missed the opportunity to open their account when fly-half Stephen Myler, whose four misses cost them the chance of an away victory over London Wasps last Sunday, failed to find the target with a simple penalty attempt. Saints forced their way back into the game with some powerful forward play but there was more misery from Myler when he knocked after the home side's rampaging pack pinned Newcastle on their own line.
The respite was only temporary for the visitors who put themselves under further pressure when scrum-half Micky Young's attempted clearance kick went backwards and Williams conceded a penalty, slapping the ball into touch as he tried to clear up the mess. This time Northampton were in no mood to let the chance slip. Weight of defensive numbers halted Saints centre James Downey just short of the try line but Myler finally made partial amends by putting his side on the scoreboard with a 31st-minute penalty.
It was all Northampton and they finally breached the Newcastle defence two minutes before half-time. Following yet more intense forward pressure the Saints moved the ball wide and centre Chris Mayor, called into the starting line-up when Jon Clarke failed a late fitness test, flicked the ball on one-handed for Paul Diggin to cross in the left-hand corner. Myler added the conversion and, from a seemingly impossible position, Northampton had reduced the arrears to nine points by the interval.
May and Myler both missed penalties early in a scrappy second half which saw Newcastle contain the home side's late attacking flourish, despite a 74th-minute penalty by Myler.
Northampton: Reihana, Ashton, Mayor, Downey, Diggin, Myler, Dickson, Tonga'uiha, Sharman, Stewart, Day, Kruger, Lawes, Best, Wilson. Replacements: Ansbro for Mayor (55), Everitt for Myler (67), Shields for Sharman (64), Smith for Stewart (57), Rae for Day (64), Hopley for Wilson (25). Not Used: Dickens.
Newcastle: Tait, D. Williams, Noon, Tu'ipulotu, Rudd, May, Young, Golding, Vickers, Hayman, Swinson, Parling, Dowson, B. Wilson, Balding. Replacements: Visser for D. Williams (40), Charlton for Young (67), D. Wilson for Golding (64), Thompson for Vickers (50), Sorenson for Parling (50), Winter for Balding (47). Not Used: Miller.
Att: 12,908 Ref: Dean Richards