Newcastle Falcons 14-32 Northampton Saints, Aviva Premiership
Saints run four past Falcons
December 31, 2011
Ben Foden scored twice for Northampton
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Northampton cranked up the pressure in the race for an Aviva Premiership play-off spot with a 32-14 victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park on Saturday.
England fullback Ben Foden scored two cleverly worked tries at the start of each half to put the Saints in the driving seat. Giant prop Soane Tonga'uiha was driven over for the visitors' third while former Falcons man Tom May delivered the fourth try - and the bonus point - four minutes from time with his first touch after coming on as a late replacement.
Victory helps Northampton leapfrog from sixth to third and leaves Newcastle firmly anchored at the foot of the table, which makes next weekend's home game against Exeter a must-win for the Falcons.
Ryan Lamb kicked two conversions and two penalties, while Jimmy Gopperth kicked three penalties for Newcastle and Suka Hufanga scored a first half try.
Northampton were 10-0 up in as many minutes against a Newcastle side who are notoriously slow starters, and the Saints scored their first try with embarrassing ease after Lamb's fourth-minute penalty.
The try came from Newcastle's inability to win hardly anything at the line-out - they lost five out of eight of their own throws in the first-half - and the real surprise was that the Saints only made it really count when a slick move saw George Pisi push an excellent rolling kick behind the Falcons defence and the ball stood up nicely for Foden to cruise in at the corner, with Lamb converting.
Gopperth's inside break and Hufanga's fast feet had the Saints backpedalling and Ally Hogg's drive brought a penalty, which the fly-half knocked over in the 14th minute.
Another Gopperth inside break sent Hufanga racing in for a 20th-minute Falcons try. Gopperth surprisingly missed the conversion but, trailing by just two points, Newcastle were back in the game.However, their inability to win any consistent line-out ball was a persistent problem and Newcastle spent most of the time in their own half.
Despite that, all Northampton had to show for all their possession was Lamb's 31st-minute penalty and in a rare period of Falcons pressure, winger Scott Armstrong conceded a 36th minute penalty which Gopperth kicked to bring the hosts to within two points again.
Newcastle edged into the lead for the first time when Gopperth landed his third penalty early in the second-half - but it did not last long with Foden grabbing his second try in the 49th minute. It was almost a replica of his first half score, with Lamb this time pushing a rolling kick through and Foden surged after it - leaving flanker Richard Mayhew trailing to touch down in the corner. Lamb squeezed over the conversion for the Saints to lead 20-14.
It was the signal for Northampton to turn the screw and from a lineout Soane Tonga'uiha was driven over in the 56th minute for 25-14. Had Vasily Artemyev been able to hang on to Lamb's lovely crossfield kick it would have been another try just a few minutes later.
Gopperth's 66th-minute penalty miss just about summed up Newcastle's afternoon as they lost Tim Swinson to the sin-bin for a high tackle - and in the last 10 minutes Northampton did pretty much as they pleased.
There were plenty of gaps appearing and Northampton's fourth try came from some slick inter-passing down the right, May scoring. It was enough to secure the four-try bonus point - and Stephen Myler converted.
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