Newcastle vs Northampton match report: Will Hooley blows Falcons away as Saints give halo a polish

Newcastle 10 Northampton 35

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The Independent Online

As a starry-eyed 11-year-old from Cambridge, Will Hooley appeared in a BBC television programme called Jonny Wilkinson’s Hotshots. Nine years on, the former Jonny Wannabe was on his boyhood hero’s old stamping ground today, giving a fair impression of the original goal-kicking hotshot.

On only his third Premiership start for Northampton, the 20-year-old also weighed in on the try-scoring front as the reigning champions resumed normal service ahead of a potentially titanic collision against the supreme Tiger-tamers Bath at Franklin’s Gardens next Saturday.

Stung by their 20-16 loss away to Wasps a week previously, Saints gave their halo a summary polishing at the expense of a Newcastle side who only started to show their mettle when the game was effectively lost, and whose run of Premiership defeats since October last year now stands at 19.

A member of England’s Under-20 World Cup-winning squad last year, Hooley made the most of his opportunity as a stand-in stand-off for the injured Stephen Myler, racking up 18 points as Jim Mallinder’s men raced into a 28-3 lead in the opening 27 minutes.

“We need options at fly-half if Stephen is unable to play for us this season,” said Mallinder, Northampton’s director of rugby. Still, the chances are that Myler and the England flanker Tom Wood will be back off the treatment table and in the starting line-up against Bath. Saints are likely to need all of their big hitters against a team who put 45 unanswered points past Leicester at The Rec on Saturday.

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Will Hooley marked his third Premiership start with a try, two conversions and three penalties

It took Northampton just four minutes to break through the porous home defence today. The Falcons’ fledgling full-back Simon Hammersley, a summer recruit from Durham University, aimed a poor kick straight down the throat of Ben Foden, who needed no second invitation to launch a counter-attack that culminated in Saints’ Samoan scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i shipping the ball from a ruck for Hooley to dive over in the left corner. Hooley added the extras, then followed up with a couple of penalty successes, the first after the Newcastle No 8 Ally Hogg had been dispatched to the sin bin.

After that, it started to get embarrassing for Newcastle. It is not easy when you have huge lumps like the 17st North Walian wing George North and the 19st American back-rower Samu Manoa running at you, as was the case on the quarter hour, but the home players dropped off tackle after tackle and some basic support play (plus one deft pass from close to the deck by the excellent Fotuali’i) ended with the loose-head prop Alex Waller completing a textbook attack.

 

Hooley’s conversion miss and a penalty success from Juan Pablo Socino proved mere temporary relief for the leaden home side. From a loose pass by former Scotland captain Mike Blair, the irresistible Manoa attacked up the right, combining again with Fatuali’i, this time to send in Ken Pisi under the posts.

Hooley, having landed a third penalty, nailed the conversion. And that was that.

From the 28th minute to the 70th the scoreboard remained untouched. Then the former Northampton wing Noah Cato scored from a quick tap penalty for Newcastle and North claimed a try bonus point with a simple overlap in the left corner.

“I wouldn’t say we fear Bath but we had three really close games with them last season and we respect them,” said Mallinder, turning his attention to next Saturday. “To beat any side by 45 points, especially Leicester, you’ve got to show them respect.”

Newcastle: Try Cato; Conversion Socino; Penalty Socino. Northampton: Tries Hooley, Waller, K Pisi, North; Conversions Hooley 2, Wilson; Penalties Hooley 3.

Newcastle S Hammersley; N Cato, A Powell, J P Socino, Al Tuilagi; P Godman (G Tiesi, 46), M Blair (W Fury, 54); K Brookes, S Lawson, S Wilson, C Green, D Barrow, J Furno (M Wilson, 46), W Welch (capt), A Hogg.

Northampton B Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi (D Waldouck, 60), L Burrell, G North; W Hooley (J Wilson, 70), K Fotuali’I (L Dickson, 57); A Waller (A Corbisiero, 62), D Hartley (capt) (R McMillan, 70), S Ma’afu (G Denman, 57), C Lawes (J Craig, 46), C Day, C Clark (P Dowson, 57), T Wood, S Manoa.

Referee G Garner.

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