Newcastle 13 Northampton 32: Spencer's swoop finishes feeble Falcons

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The Independent Online

Having spent so much of the season looking up the table, Northampton can now look forward with some confidence to a top-six finish. Paul Grayson, Saints' head coach, was all smiles after this five-try win, even though his team had not played particularly well.

"We have usually struggled here," he said. "But we asked for a big effort from the boys at half-time and, once we stopped throwing the ball about we found our shape."

"Our European Challenge Cup quarter-final against Connacht on Friday can't come soon enough," said Rob Andrew, Newcastle's director of rugby. "I was hoping we would use this game to move on up the table. Instead, we finished going the other way. We had too many young players out there today and once they got so far behind, they couldn't handle it"

The Falcons stumbled from one cataclysmic passage of play to the next, though Northampton were almost as guilty in a first half of often breathtaking incompetence. It all started in the second minute, when Ben Cohen came off his left wing, Anthony Elliott made a half-hearted attempt at a tackle and Cohen got in at the corner.

There was a semblance of planning about the next try. Saints had pulled down a maul, a line-out drive was called for by Newcastle and Owen Finegan was shunted over the line. Then James Grindal spilled the ball and Carlos Spencer hacked it 40 metres for a soft try.

Next Bruce Reihana barged through Toby Flood and Spencer took it on to hand a scoring pass to Pat Barnard. Jon Clarke and Darren Fox also scored tries, to one for Elliott, and if Reihana kicked more of his goals it would have been even worse for the Falcons.

Newcastle: Tries Finegan, Elliott; Penalty Walder. Northampton: Tries Cohen, Spencer, Barnard, Clarke, Fox; Conversions Reihana 2; Penalty Reihana.

Newcastle: M Burke (capt); A Elliott, T May, T Flood (M Mayerhofler, 40), O Phillips (J Shaw, 54); D Walder, J Grindal (H Charlton, 62); M Ward (J Williams, 40), A Long (M Thompson, 63), R Morris (Ward, 54), A Perry, G Parling (S Grimes, 49), O Finegan (M McCarthy, 49), B Woods, A Buist.

Northampton: B Reihana (co-capt); S Lamont, J Clarke, D Quinlan, B Cohen; C Spencer (R Kydd, 69), M Robinson; T Smith (P Barnard, 74), S Thompson (co-capt; D Richmond, 59), P Barnard (S Emms, 56), D Browne, D Gerard (M Lord, 51), P Tupai (D Fox, 51), S Harding, M Easter.

Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset).