Walder waltz gets Falcons off mark

Northampton 9 Newcastle 16
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Newcastle have not been sure of themselves at the scrum since the former Springbok Marius Hurter left. Against Bristol last Sunday Robbie Morris, once of Northampton, was given such an awkward afternoon by the Bristol loosehead Dave Hilton that he was up and down so much he could have been on a trampoline.

While Rob Andrew, the Falcons' director of rugby, has strengthened his back five by adding Andy Perry and Owen Finegan to his squad, the Newcastle pack have looked terribly vulnerable in both their opening games, each of which has been lost.

Northampton have not had a threatening prop since Garry Pagel returned to his native South Africa. And the loss of Andrew Blowers has not helped their cause. They were shredded against Leicester two weeks ago, so this was a test of whether or not they could impose themselves on the Newcastle forwards. At times they did.

Saints made an encouraging start. The home forwards drove towards the Newcastle line; Carlos Spencer - who was a box of tricks throughout - shaped to throw an overhead pass to the backs queuing up outside him, but instead popped the ball deceptively to Mark Robinson, only to see the try disallowed for crossing. Newcastle had been warned. So, at the end of a 10-minute period of pressure, Northampton emerged empty-handed and Newcastle took the lead. Mathew Tait broke a couple of ineffective tackles for Dave Walder to beat what remained of the cover for a smart try. Matt Burke converted.

Bruce Reihana pulled three points back with a penalty, but two misses by the New Zealander hardly inspired confidence and the Falcons went further in front with a drop goal by Walder and a penalty from Burke to give them a useful 13-3 advantage at the break.

That was cut to 13-6 with Reihana's second penalty within three minutes of the restart, but when Saints were awarded another Reihana opted for a line-out drive. However,this proved fruitless and it was Newcastle who retrieved the situation to camp in home territory long enough to add to their points tally.

Tait had a try disallowed but, despite Northampton's late rally, Newcastle clung on to claim their first victory at Franklin's Gardens since they won the title in 1998.

Northampton: B Reihana (capt); S Lamont, J Clarke, S Mallon (R Davies, 69), B Cohen; C Spencer, M Robinson (J Howard, 71); T Smith, D Hartley (S Thompson, 40), B Sturgess (C Budgen, 53), M Lord, D Browne, M Soden (B Lewitt, 69), M Easter, D Fox.

Newcastle: M Burke; T May, J Noon, M Mayerhofler, M Tait; D Walder, H Charlton (J Grindal, 60); M Ward (D Wilson, 60), A Long, R Morris (T Paoletti, 50), A Perry (S Grimes, 26-38), G Parling, O Finegan, C Charvis (capt), B Woods.

Referee: R Maybank (Kent).