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

  • Get to the point
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

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss