Weakened Northampton still too strong for Newcastle

Northampton 34 Newcastle 13
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The Independent Online

Northampton's tenure at the top of the Premiership may have lasted no longer than 24 hours but they are not concerned. There is no doubt that the Saints are one of the two most consistent clubs in England: London Irish, who reclaimed the leadership yesterday, are the other – as their record confirms.

Northampton have lost only one of their nine games thus far and will have the opportunity, over the next fortnight, to rest some of their key players. Lee Dickson and Roger Wilson both left Saturday's win over Newcastle Falcons prematurely, nursing ankle injuries, but would not have been involved in the first two rounds of the LV= Cup anyway.

"We're fairly confident we have a better squad than last year," Jim Mallinder, the director of rugby, said, "but you always need a bit of luck on your side." As matters stand, though, Northampton are making their own luck: they ignored the departure of four key players on England duties, shrugged off the loss of Bruce Reihana to injury and felt capable of leaving a Scotland and Lions prop, Euan Murray, on the sidelines.

Newcastle will be grateful for that. As it was, their scrum was marched backwards, at one stage retreating all of 30 metres and finally conceded the penalty that gave Stephen Myler the chance to put 10 points between the two sides. For all that, Newcastle stayed in the game for an hour: "We were given a lesson up front and when you get that kind of beating, you don't expect to be in the game," Alan Tait, their head coach, said. "But we kept our heads up."

The best of Northampton's four tries stemmed from Newcastle's inability to find touch. A clearing kick fell to Greig Tonks in his own half, Joe Ansbro did remarkably well to carry the move on, Myler's dart for the line was held but Tonks appeared on a well-chosen diagonal line to finish under the posts. Ansbro himself was a try-scorer too, confirming that he can be more than a super-sub.

Scorers: Northampton: Tries Dickson, Tonks, Ansbro, Downey. Conversions Myler 4. Penalties Myler 2. Newcastle: Try Manning. Conversion Gopperth. Penalties Gopperth 2.

Northampton: G Tonks; J Ansbro, J Clarke, J Downey, P Diggin (S Geraghty, 66); S Myler, L Dickson (R Powell, 45); S Tonga'uiha, B Sharman (A Long, 63), B Mujati (T Mercey, 69), C Clark (M Easter, 63), C Day, P Dowson (capt), T Wood, R Wilson (M Sorenson, 24).

Newcastle: A Tait (J Manning, 51); L Fielden (T Catterick, 55), G Bobo (sin bin 14-24), L Eves, C Amesbury; J Gopperth, M Young (C Pilgrim, 63); K Brookes (G Shiells, 32), R Vickers (capt; J Graham, 75), T Ryan (Brookes, 46), F Levi, T Swinson, M Wilson, R Pennycook (E Williamson, 66), A Hogg (B Wilson, 43-53).

Referee: N Owens (Wales)

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