Chink of daylight for gutsy Falcons

Newcastle 15 Northampton 22
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The Independent Online

Goodness knows Newcastle Falcons have learnt to lower their sights in recent times, but rarely has so little meant so much.

A fourth Premiership defeat in succession may not sound like cause for celebration, yet the losing bonus point they gleaned was enough to lift them above Leeds Carnegie on points difference and off the foot of the table.

A fraught end to the season beckons, but this gutsy performance should give Alan Tait's men confidence going into their final three matches.

Northampton? They continue to tick along nicely. They played within themselves, though still managed to score three tries while Newcastle's points all came from Jimmy Gopperth's trusty boot.

The fly-half seized the match by the scruff of the neck and booted two penalties to put the Falcons 6-0 after only eight minutes.

Northampton gradually steadied themselves and, in the 25th minute, Ben Foden collected possession at the back of a scrum and scampered over for a try which Stephen Myler converted.

Myler and Gopperth traded penalties either side of the break but Northampton always gave the inescapable impression that they could move through the gears when the opportunity arose – and so it proved in the 50th minute.

Saints worked the ball from right to left, Foden's long pass found Jon Clarke and he sent Bruce Reihana plunging over in the corner.

Northampton then lost Calum Clark, the flanker, to the sin-bin for a late hit on Gopperth.

The New Zealander's fifth penalty levelled the scores before Chris Ashton collected a pass from Myler and dived over in the right-hand corner for a converted try, which edged his side closer towards securing a play-off berth.

Scorers: Newcastle: Penalties Gopperth 5. Northampton: Tries Foden, Reihana, Ashton; Conversions Myler 2; Penalty Myler.

Newcastle: T Catterick, A Tait, T Tu'ipulotu (R Vickerman, 68), J Fitzpatrick (L Eves, 60), G Bobo, J Gopperth (capt), C Pilgrim; J Golding (G Shiells, 54), M Thompson (R Vickers, 54), E Murray (K Brookes, 71), T Swinson (F Levi, 74), A van der Heijden, M Wilson, W Welch (A Gray, 68), A Hogg.

Northampton: B Foden, C Ashton, J Clarke, J Downey, B Reihana, S Myler, L Dickson; S Tonga'uiha, D Hartley (capt) (B Sharman, 72), B Mujati, C Lawes, C Day (M Sorenson, 65), C Clark (sin-bin 60-70), P Dowson (T Wood, 65), R Wilson.

Referee: G Garner (RFU).