Arnold rallies Newcastle to stave off Saints' late charge

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Newcastle withstood a furious closing onslaught to hold on for an unlikely, though well-deserved victory, when it seemed as if the Northampton forwards would smash their way to a win as the Newcastle pack were clinging on for dear life. Somehow the home forwards, splendidly marshalled in defence by a revitalised Richard Arnold, denied Pat Lam and his cohorts, as wave after wave of green shirts threatened to overwhelm them.

Newcastle withstood a furious closing onslaught to hold on for an unlikely, though well-deserved victory, when it seemed as if the Northampton forwards would smash their way to a win as the Newcastle pack were clinging on for dear life. Somehow the home forwards, splendidly marshalled in defence by a revitalised Richard Arnold, denied Pat Lam and his cohorts, as wave after wave of green shirts threatened to overwhelm them.

Until last season, when Newcastle lost five of their home league games, Kingston Park, was never a place to go in search of easy points. Not that Saints suggested it was enough just to turn up, though they played with so little imagination and purpose until the final 15 minutes, it is difficult to discount the theory entirely. Though having an advantage in territory and possession, it would have been an injustice had Northampton won, so lacking in creativity were they.

Even without a trio of injured internationals, Nick Beal, Matt Dawson and Ben Cohen, the Heineken Cup holders have bags of talent and a set of forwards that will bend the knee to nobody. Without the concussed Ross Nesdale, and with Peter Walton now retired, the Newcastle pack is light on bulk. To compensate, they move the ball at every opportunity.

It took Newcastle almost 30 minutes to make any real impact in broken play. Jonny Wilkinson, Gary Armstrong and John Leslie had by turns stretched Northampton, without making those extra yards to the line. Leslie, in particular, looked very sharp on his return from a serious ankle injury. But it was Leslie's fellow Scotland international, Ross Beattie, who made most yardage in the loose. The No 8 put Ross Cook away, but Craig Moir got across to make a try-saving tackle. From the resulting line-out, Beattie took a clean catch for Andrew Mower to be driven over for the opening try. Wilkinson converted to add to his two earlier penalties. With three penalties by Paul Grayson, Newcastle turned round 10-9 to the good.

Wilkinson stretched that with his second penalty, only for Luca Martin to steal away for a try, which Grayson converted, allowing Saints to regain the lead. But then Olivier Brouzet kicked the ball away when Newcastle were awarded a penalty and was sent to the sin-bin. While the Frenchman was cooling his heels, Va'aiga Tuigamala shimmied across for a try. Beattie scored the third, Wilkinson converted both and, at 27-16, Saints were spinning to defeat.

With five minutes remaining, Garry Pagel burrowed over for a try, which was their final rallying call. But Newcastle's heroic defence stopped them from marching in.

Newcastle: Tries Mower, Tuigamala, Beattie; Conversions Wilkinson 3; Penalties Wilkinson 2. Northampton: Tries Martin, Pagel; Conversion Grayson; Penalties Grayson 3.

Newcastle: P Massey (G MacLure, h-t); L Botham, R Cook, J Leslie, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson, G Armstrong (H Charlton, 67); G Graham, M Howe (C Balshen, h-t), M Hurter, S Grimes, D Weir (capt), R Arnold, A Mower (J Jenner, 76), R Beattie.

Northampton: C Moir; J Bramhall, A Bateman (S Webster, 33), M Allen, L Martin; P Grayson, D Malone; G Pagel, S Thompson (S Brotherstone, 69), M Scelzo (M Stewart, 57), O Brouzet, T Rodber (J Phillips, 74), G Seely, B Pountney (R Hunter, 51), P Lam (capt).

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).

Comments