Farrell's boot leaves Falcons on brink

Newcastle 3 Saracens 9

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The Independent Online

Saracens clinched a place in the Premiership semi-finals with a brutal victory. Three penalties from the boot of Owen Farrell took Saracens into second place in the table while Jimmy Gopperth's solitary strike gave Newcastle a crucial losing bonus point in front of a crowd of 8,011 – the Falcons' biggest of the season.

The home side had chances to win the game at the end and Saracens were hanging on but that bonus point cut the gap at the bottom of the table between Newcastle and Wasps to three points ahead of Wasps' visit to Bath. Saracens lost England centre Brad Barritt with a leg injury during the warm-up, with Farrell moving to No 12 and Charlie Hodgson coming in at fly-half. There was little to choose between the sides by half-time, with Farrell landing just one of three kicks at goal.

But it was a half that Saracens dominated against some determined Newcastle tackling. An offside in the 11th minute gave Farrell his first opportunity but he was short from 45 metres.

Hodgson kept up the pressure with a little dink through but the ball ran into touch and Saracens moved into the lead when Jon Golding failed to roll away in the tackle and Farrell slotted the penalty in the 18th minute.

The referee made a big call in the 32nd minute, deciding Newcastle had wheeled the scrum, but Farrell hit the post with the penalty. Another wheeled scrum gave Farrell the chance to make it 6-0 four minutes into the second half. Gopperth was short with a penalty when the scrum went down but did make it 6-3 in the 53rd minute after a late hit by Will Fraser.

Farrell restored the six-point gap when he made it 9-3 in the 64th minute when the Newcastle scrum went down. The home side had chances when Justin Melck was sin-binned near the end. After James Fitzpatrick nearly made it through, the last three minutes saw the Falcons spurn a kick at goal to go to the corner.

Newcastle: Goosen; Uys, Helleur, Fitzpatrick, Shortland; Gopperth, Stringer; Golding, Vickers (Thompson, 69), Murray (Hall, 72), Hudson, Swinson, Hogg, Welch (Wilson, 64), Balding. Replacements: Shiells, Goode, Tu'ifua, Pilgrim, Catterick.

Saracens: Goode; Strettle, Wyles, Hodgson, Short; Farrell (Tagicakibau, 67), De Kock (Wigglesworth, 51), Gill, Brits, Stevens (Nieto, 53), Borthwick, Kruis ( Botha, 51), Wray, Fraser (Melck, 55) Joubert. Replacements: George, Vunipola, Cowell,

Referee: JP Doyle (RFU)