Planet Rugby

Close but no cigar for Falcons

20th April 2012 21:39

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jimmy gopperth newcastle v saracens

Newcastle: Went down fighting

Newcastle lost 9-3 to Saracens at Kingston Park on Friday, but not without a fight as the hosts fought tooth and nail until the end.

Saracens' victory confirmed their place in the play-offs and inched Newcastle nearer to relegation.

Given what was at stake, it is no surprise that this one began as a tight and tense battle but it never really got going at all as both sides approached the match with caution and were reluctant to try things for fear of making a mistake.

Both were also guilty of some aimless kicking out of hand and it took until midway through the first half for Owen Farrell to give the visitors the lead from the tee.

There was no lack of endeavour from the hosts as the half wore on but they were unable to trouble the scoreboard at all as both teams were conservative in the extreme and the ball spent a huge proportion of the game high in the night sky.

Saracens doubled their lead with another Farrell penalty in the early stages of the second half after their advantage at the scrum resulted in a penalty in the opposition twenty-two.

Jimmy Gopperth did peg the Londoners back with three points of his own but Sarries' continued domination in the scrum provided another penalty opportunity for Farrell and he duly slotted it over to restore their six-point advantage with quarter of an hour remaining.

When replacement Justin Melck was sinbinned for a dubious late hit shortly afterwards though, the Falcons were presented with a superb opportunity to boost their survival hopes.

But despite playing some far more enterprising rugby against fourteen men and going for the converted try they needed for the win, they were unable to make the breakthrough and Saracens' defence held out to secure their playoff place.

The Falcons laid siege to the opposition try-line in the final minutes and although they were unable to win the game, they picked up a vital bonus point which increases their chances of survival because it means their fate will remain in their own hands as long as Wasps don't win against Bath on Saturday, even if they pick up a losing bonus point.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
Pen: Gopperth

For Saracens:
Pens: Farrell 3

Newcastle: 15 Greg Goosen, 14 Corne Uys, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Peter Stringer,8 Adam Balding, 7 Will Welch, 6 Ally Hogg, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 James Hudson, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Rob Vickers, 1 Jonny Golding.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 James Hall, 19 James Goode, 20 Taiasina Tu'ifua, 21 Mark Wilson, 22 Chris Pilgrim, 23 Tom Catterick.

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 David Strettle, 13 Chris Wyles, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 James Short, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Will Fraser, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 George Kruis, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Carlos Nieto, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Justin Melck, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Charlie Hodgson, 23 Michael Tagicakibau.

Referee: JP Doyle

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