A controversial penalty try awarded to Saracens proved to be the difference between the Londoners and Newcastle at Kingston Park yesterday.
Referee Steve Lander awarded the try after 33 minutes when Saracens' Andy Goode kicked ahead and appeared to be obstructed. The ball went into touch with several players chasing it and at best it looked to be a line-out - possibly a penalty.
However, Lander looked at his touch judge and then raced behind the posts to award a penalty try and Goode converted for a 20-3 lead for Saracens.
It was probably no more than Newcastle deserved after a naive first half-hour but they will feel aggrieved that they did not haul the game back in a committed second-half display.
After some good early running rugby from both sides, Warren Britz's pulverising run set up a penalty which Dave Walder kicked after eight minutes.
However, Paul Bailey raced over in the face of some poor Newcastle defence just two minutes later and Goode's conversion put Saracens 7-3 ahead.
Saracens were gifted three more points when Garath Archer was penalised for hanging on in the tackle. Morgan William took it quickly and although it looked as though Archer had retreated 10 metres referee Lander got it wrong and gave another penalty which Goode kicked to make it 10-3.
He then extended Saracens' lead when Newcastle lost the ball in their own half by trying to be too clever off the back of the line-out. Saracens worked it on through Simon Raiwalui, and Goode slotted over a simple drop goal.
Then came the controversial penalty try after 33 minutes of the game.
Newcastle finally got their act together with a massive forward dive and a Jamie Noon break followed by swiftly recycled ball which led to Jamie Grindal darting over for a try converted by Walder for 20-10.
The Falcons were back in the game, especially after Gollings and Walder forced a line-out deep in the Saracens 22 with a Newcastle throw, and from another massive forward drive Walder did well to take Grindal's high pass, swivel and drop a goal.
Newcastle were now producing some pulverising forward play and mesmerising handling from the backs. Hugh Vyvyan stepped inside two tackles and passed inside for Britz to storm over and Walder's conversion levelled the scores at 20-20.
But again Newcastle made the crucial mistake of trying to run it in their own half and Epi Taione was turned over on his own 10-metre line and Richard Haughton swept away for a try to put Saracens back in front with eight minutes left.
Newcastle: Tries Grindal, Britz; Conversions Walder 2; Penalties Walder; Drop goals Walder. Saracens: Tries Bailey, Penalty, Haughton; Conversions Goode (2); Penalty Goode; Drop goals Goode.
Newcastle: Shaw, Stephenson, Noon, May, Gollings, Walder, Grindal (Charlton, 66), Ward, Makin (Kay, 78), Hurter (Peel, 40), Archer, Andrews, Taione, Britz, Vyvyan.
Saracens: Castaignede, Haughton, Johnston, Bailey, McAvoy, Goode, Williams, Randell, Peacey (Skirving, 77), Roques, Chesney, Raiwalui, Bergamaschi, Ross (Parkes, 50), Sparks.
Referee: Steve Lander (RFU).
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* The Scottish Rugby Union has confirmed it is to investigate allegations of racism made by Heriot's FP coach Phil Smith. He accused a Stirling County player of making jibes against Fijian lock Apolosi Satala during the BT Premiership Division One match between the two sides at Goldenacre yesterday. Satala was sent-off for punching in the 23rd minute.Reuse content