Foden feasts on feeble Falcons as resurgent Saints move ominously into third

Newcastle Falcons 14 Northampton Saints 32

Kingston Park

In the 10 years he spent as a Newcastle player, Tom May got to know his way across the whitewash in the Falcons' home nest. With his first touch as a 76th minute replacement centre for Northampton yesterday, the 30-year-old crossed the home line to secure a bonus point victory for the in-form Saints.

They might have shot their bolt in the Heineken Cup, but Jim Mallinder's men are gathering notable momentum on the domestic front. A sixth win in seven league games has taken them up into the play-off zone for the first time this season – into third place in the Premiership, behind Harlequins and Saracens.

It proved to be a routine victory against a Newcastle side who start the new year still six points adrift at the foot of the table.

Watched by Stuart Lancaster, England's interim head coach, Ben Foden plundered the first two tries and set up the fourth. In between times, the Red Rose full-back shook off an ankle injury but at the final whistle there was the worrying site of Courtney Lawes collapsed in a heap and being helped gingerly off the field by two physios. "He's sprained his knee," Mallinder, Northampton's director of rugby, said of the second-row dynamo. "The physios were just being precautionary with him. Fingers crossed, he'll be fine. Hopefully, there's no serious damage."

Whether Lawes will be fit for Saints' home match against Quins on Friday night remains to be seen. It will also be intriguing to discover whether there will be a place in Northampton's starting line-up for Chris Ashton, who will have served his four-week suspension for his hair pulling antics against Alesana Tuilagi but whose refusal to open contract talks has placed his future at Franklin's Gardens in serious doubt.

"Chris is still part of our squad," Mallinder said of his seemingly Saracens-bound England winger. "We've not washed our hands with him. He's not signed for anyone as far as I know. You just crack on with it. You just want players who want to play for you. You can't have superstars in your team." Ouch.

It was painful from the start for the Falcons yesterday, with their line-out malfunctioning, their scrum getting shoved around, and their rush defence repeatedly getting ahead of itself. They were already trailing to a Ryan Lamb penalty when they conceded the opening try in the eighth minute. It came from a lost line-out, the former Newcastle captain Phil Dowson stealing possession at the tail. The pilfered ball was shipped on via Lamb to centre George Pisi, whose angled grubber kick found the Newcastle defence not at home and left Foden free to gather and touch down. Lamb added the conversion, leaving Northampton 10-0 up.

Still, the Falcons managed to claw their way back, their Kiwifly-half Jimmy Gopperth slotting a penalty and then launching the break that yielded a score on the left for Suka Hufanga. It was a first try in Newcastle colours for the Tongan winger.

There was a shock to follow, with Gopperth – the winner of the Premiership's Golden Boot in the last two seasons – pushing wide his conversion attempt. He made amends with a penalty before the interval and, with Lamb landing one at the other end, Northampton were 13-11 up at half-time.

Four minutes after the resumption, Newcastle snatched the lead. The Saints captain and hooker, Dylan Hartley, was deemed to have sinned at a ruck and Gopperth administered the punishment with a penalty from 40 yards.

Just when it looked like Hartley and his colleagues might have a scrap on their hands, Lamb eased the pressure. Taking a feed from scrum-half Lee Dickson, the former Gloucester fly-half angled a grubber kick into the right corner and Foden had little trouble in galloping past flanker Richard Mayhew to get to the ball and dot it down. Lamb squeezed over the touchline conversion and Northampton were back in front.

By the 58th minute, Saints had a 25-14 cushion, the 21st Tongan prop Soane Tonga'uiha powering over from a driven line-out in the left corner. Lamb missed the conversion and the only question thereafter was whether Saints could claim a bonus point score.

They ought to have done so on the hour but their Russian winger Vasily Artemyev failed to grasp a gimme of a cross-field kick from Lamb. As it was, it took until the 78th minute for the fourth Northampton try to materialise. It came from a shimmy and half-break on the right by Foden. He fed the ball out wide to Artemyev, whose inside pass left May with a clear run to the line.

Newcastle G Goosen (T Catterick, 58); J Manning, J Fitzpatrick, L Eves, S Hufanga; J Gopperth, J Pasqualin (C Pilgrim, 67); G Shiells (A Wells, h-t), R Vickers (J Graham, 72), E Murray (D Frazier, 74), J Hudson (capt) (T Swinson, h-t), A Fondse, R Mayhew (T Tu'ifua, 51), W Welch (M Wilson, 65), A Hogg.

Northampton B Foden; V Artemeyev, G Pisi, J Downey (T May 76), S Armstrong; R Lamb (S Myler, 67), L Dickson (M Roberts, 72); S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 67), D Hartley (capt) (M Haywood, 67), P Doran-Jones (B Mujati, 56), S Manoa, M Sorensen (C Day, 68), C Lawes, P Dowson, R Wilson.

Referee T Wigglesworth (RFU).

Newcastle

Tries: Hufanga

Pens: Gopperth 2

Northampton

Tries: Foden 2, Tonga'uiha, May

Cons: Lamb 2, Myler

Pens: Lamb 2

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas