Lacklustre Newcastle succumb to Saints' revival

Newcastle 13 Northampton 28
Click to follow
The Independent Online

John Steele's smile said it all as he and Northampton's new coach, Wayne Smith, left their seats five minutes before the end of this match. Neither of them will be too critical of some aspects of their team's performance; it was the result which counted and lifts Saints two places away from the foot of the table to ninth.

After their wretched performance against Bristol at Franklin's Gardens a week earlier, Saints could hardly have expected to have relieved Newcastle of their unbeaten home league record with such ease. But in truth, this was an easy victory as Newcastle turned in their lamest performance for many a day.

Had Paul Grayson and Ben Cohen not made such a hash of dealing with Tom May's chip ahead which resulted in Newcastle's only try, and Grayson not missed with all three penalty shots, Rob Andrew's side would have suffered an even more embarrassing defeat.

Cohen redeemed himself by scoring two of Northampton's four tries, and was within a whisker of getting a third, while four Grayson conversions put the gloss on Northampton's fourth bonus point of the season.

Smith who takes up his appointment today was not available for comment but Steele, the director of rugby, was and he said: "First impressions are important, and Wayne was pleased with the way all the boys gave it all they've got. But despite our poor run of results, the spirit is good in the camp. Today we stuck at it, closed Newcastle down and forced them into making errors."

Not all the Falcons' errors were forced; they didn't have to be. Their ball control bordered on the laughable while the first-up tackling – normally such a Newcastle strength – was abject, and Northampton took full advantage.

Cohen got the opening try and James Brooks the second as Newcastle's defence went walkabout. May's score was sandwiched in between, while Dave Walder opened and closed the first-half with a penalty for Northampton to take a 14-13 interval lead.

Cohen and Mark Tucker added another try each in the second period, and for once Newcastle's reliance on youth failed them. Michael Stephenson could barely keep his feet, Liam Botham spilled the ball continually, as did Epeli Taione, while Gareth Maclure's passing was lamentable.

For Northampton, Olivier Brouzet was the pick of a pack who disrupted the Falcons' scrum, though not far behind the Frenchman were Rob Hunter, Andrew Blowers and Steve Thompson, who were all a constant menace to the home side. Newcastle were a menace to themselves.

Newcastle: Try May; Conversion Walder; Penalties Walder 2. Northampton: Tries Cohen 2, Brooks, Tucker; Conversions Grayson 4.

Newcastle: M Stephenson; L Botham, J Noon, T May, G Maclure; D Walder, H Charlton (G Armstrong, 62); M Ward (I Peel, 59), N Makin (C Balshen, 74), M Hurter (G Graham, 49), H Vyvyan, S Grimes (capt), E Taione, A Mower, J Dunbar (P Lam, 53).

Northampton: P Grayson; N Beal (capt), P Jorgensen (M Tucker, 64), J Leslie, B Cohen; J Brooks, D Malone; T Smith, S Thompson, M Stewart, J Phillips (A Newman, 68), O Brouzet, A Rennick, A Blowers, R Hunter.

Referee: N Yates (Manchester).