Newcastle 21 Saracens 16: Falcons make light work of Diamond's rough and unready bunch

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The Independent Online

Rugby rarely comes as dreary as this, but Newcastle and Saracens did their worst to make it a horror show. Saracens were determined from the off to spoil. It earned them a losing bonus point; anything more would have brought charges of duplicity.

They were so cataclysmically awful, their return journey south in the private jet laid on by the club's owner, Nigel Wray, was in danger of being overloaded, so heavy will have been the introspection.

Newcastle did their utmost to play the sort of rugby which suits the style Rob Andrew has sought to inculcate among the group of talented backs he has nurtured since taking over as director of rugby at Kingston Park more than 10 years ago.

They put the game beyond Sarries' reach three minutes from full-time, when Joe Shaw ran in the Falcons' second try after Tom May, Anthony Elliott, Dave Walder and Mathew Tait had provided the impetus for him to cross the line. It sealed Newcastle's hard-won victory, which moves them two places up the Premiership table to seventh.

What went before was monotonous beyond belief, though this uneventful contest was eventually enlivened by Elliott's try deep in the third quarter. What a try it was, too, Tait bursting from the halfway line before putting Elliott away in the corner. Yet it was not without controversy, as Steve Diamond, the Saracens' director of rugby, asserted that Newcastle's throw at the line-out, which preceded the crucial score, was crooked. On such slender margins is the result of a tight match decided.

Not that Saracens had much to complain about, for they were singularly unimaginative in broken play and were were second best up front while their lack of creativity was palpable. Having slumped to 10th in the table they are now fully paid-up members of the relegation club.

Newcastle progressed without the iconic Jonny Wilkinson, who has not recovered fully from surgery to repair a torn adductor muscle, and who has made just three Premiership starts this season. Also missing were Matt Burke, who failed a late fitness test, the centre Mark Mayerhofler and Toby Flood, with a knee injury.

However, what has turned the Falcons around is the improvement wrought by their forwards' coach, Peter Walton. Their pack now looks competitive and they have lost just one of their last 10 matches.

Saracens' contribution to a leaden afternoon was three penalties and the conversion of Adam Powell's try by Glen Jackson. They were then up to 14-13 and in sight of an unlikely, if undeserved, win. Shaw put paid to that, while Walder also dropped a goal and kicked the final conversion, along with two penalties.

Newcastle: Tries Elliott, Shaw; Conversion Walder; Penalties Walder 2; Drop goal Walder. Saracens: Try Powell; Conversion Jackson; Penalties Jackson 3.

Newcastle: D Walder; T May, M Tait, J Noon, A Elliott; T Flood (J Shaw, 20), J Grindal (H Charlton, 2-7, 72); M Ward (R Morris, 67), A Long (M Thompson, 54), R Morris (D Wilson, 40), A Perry, S Grimes, O Finegan (G Parling, 40), B Woods, C Charvis (capt).

Saracens: M Bartholomuesz (D Scarbrough, 60); T Vaikona, K Sorrell (A Powell, 35-40), D Harris (A Powell, 53), B Johnston; G Jackson, M Rauluni (A Dickens, 40); N Lloyd, M Cairns, H Mitchell (B Broster, 35), S Raiwalui (K Chesney, 44), H Vyvyan (capt), B T Russell (T Ryder, 60), D Seymour, B Skirving.

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).

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