Brits puts born-again Sarries in bonus land

Saracens 58 Newcastle Falcons 15
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The Independent Online

You wait all season for a thrill at Vicarage Road, then along come a procession of them in a seven-try hammering that revives Saracens' title ambitions while shunting nervous Newcastle closer to the relegation morass.

This was the first time Saracens have managed a four-try bonus point in a campaign scarred by their pragmatic and often criticised tactics. Vicarage Road duly hummed with excitement as Sarries set about proving they can actually do more than defend superbly and kick penalties.

Glen Jackson did kick plenty of goals – seven conversions and three penalties – but this time they were decorative rather than decisive in a performance that should guarantee a fourth consecutive 40,000-plus crowd when Saracens take their fourth and final "home" game to Wembley for the visit of Harlequins on 17 April.

"We took a hiding. We missed tackles for two early tries and that knocked the stuffing out of us," the Newcastle rugby director, Steve Bates, admitted. "Fortunately we have a midweek game against Gloucester to help get us back on track because things down the bottom are going to become very tense. We need to restore confidence. The test of character is how you respond to a hiding."

Saracens' rugby director, Brendan Venter, put down the team's improved form to a two-day break in Brighton, and was equally firm when asked about reports that the Northampton prop Soane Tonga'uiha was having second thoughts about joining him next season.

He said: "He has signed a contract and as far as I am concerned, he is coming here. I don't know where these things come from, but nobody makes you sign a contract, it is the player's decision. As for us, I believe we can beat any team in the country when we are on this form. We go to Leicester, Northampton and Gloucester, and I relish the challenge."

Sarries responded superbly after Jimmy Gopperth had fired the Falcons into an early 6-0 lead with a drop-goal and penalty. Schalk Brits set sail for the Newcastle posts and either handed-off or sidestepped no fewer than four opponents before diving over for a fine solo try. The hooker soon added a second when at pace Adam Powell shrugged off a tackle to offload to a Brits already thundering for the line.

On 35 minutes Andy Saull was forced into touch only inches from the line but, after Newcastle lost their lineout, Jackson worked the ball left to Saull to barge over between the posts.

Turning round 27-12 up, Sarries added the bonus point on the hour when Noah Cato broke clear on to a loose ball from inside his own half and held off four challengers to cross. Six minutes later the captain Ernst Joubert intercepted a loose pass from Micky Young and galloped clear. Then the replacement wing Richard Haughton exposed embarrassed the Falcons' defence with a scoring run up the right and Joubert rounded off the rout with his second try in injury-time.

Scorers: Saracens: Tries Brits 2, Joubert 2, Saull, Cato, Haughton. Conversions Jackson 7. Penalties Jackson 3. Newcastle Falcons: Penalties Gopperth 4. Drop-goal Gopperth.

Saracens: A Goode; R Penney (R Haughton, 62), A Powell (D Hougaard, 67), B Barritt, N Cato; G Jackson, N de Kock (M Rauluni, 69); R Gill (M Aguero, 56), S Brits (F Ongaro, 66), P du Plessis (R Skuse, 70), H Vyvyan, M Botha (T Ryder, 60), J Burger (J Melch, 60), E Joubert (capt), A Saull.

Newcastle Falcons: A Tait; D Williams, G Bobo, T Tu'ipulotu (R Vickerman, 56), C Amesbury; J Gopperth (T Catterick, 69), M Young (H Charlton, 67); J Golding (M Ward, 63), R Vickers (A Walker, 58), C Hayman (capt; K Brookes, 67), J Hudson, T Swinson, F Levi (M Sorenson, 55), P Browne (J Afu, h-t), B Wilson.

Referee: C White (Glouc).