Newcastle Falcons moved within striking distance of Aviva Premiership Rugby’s top six teams courtesy of a 22-16 victory at Northampton Saints – but director of rugby Dean Richards insists his side still have plenty more in the tank to come this term.
The north-west outfit led at the interval at Franklin’s Gardens after Joel Hodgson grabbed an early try and cancelled out Stephen Myler’s penalty with a kick of his own.
Despite Kieran Brookes’ red card just before the break, Northampton hit back with ten unanswered points as Christian Day scored their 1000th Aviva Premiership Rugby try.
But the Falcons made their one-man advantage count as Will Witty scored on 73 minutes, and another Myler penalty was not enough when Niki Goneva intercepted a Tom Kessell pass and ran the length of the field to score a match-winning try.
“We’re playing good rugby, and enjoying that style of rugby as well with everyone buying into it,” said Richards.
— BT Sport Rugby (@btsportrugby) November 25, 2016
“We’ve been a bit inaccurate so far and so we’ll get better and better as the season goes on. We’ve got a huge injury list too at the moment, and as those guys start to come back we’ll get better.
“We did have a bit more accuracy about us today, but there were still probably three tries that went begging so there is still room to improve.
“I thought Joel played really well as did a lot of the other boys as well. It’s not a one-man team, and I thought towards the end our scrum started to dominate – although they were a man down at that point.
“Lineouts went well today as well, and while we didn’t get our rolling maul sorted out, Joel controlled everything, put us in the right areas and got the try he deserved as well.
“You want to win every game, don’t you? So we’ll be trying to win the next game and then the one after that as well.”
— Alex Rogers (@Alexrogers86) November 25, 2016
Saints remain ahead of the Falcons in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings, but Newcastle are now just two points outside of the crucial top six spots.
And while Mallinder admitted Brookes’ sending off was vital in the second half, Northampton’s director of rugby was encouraged by the way his side battled on.
He said: “I thought we came back in the second half well and really fought our way back into it.
“We defended well and put the ball in the sort of positions that we should have done in the first 25 minutes, and got ourselves ahead.
“We were looking to make that break just off the back of a maul which would have sealed the game, but unfortunately it just got intercepted.
“We’re very disappointed. It was a poor start, we went behind and to lose Kieran Brookes just before half-time is what you don’t want to happen, down to 14 men without your tighthead.
“I was pleased with the way we responded, we showed some pride in that second half and I suppose we should really have won the game.”
Amazing result for @FalconsRugby at Franklins Gardens. Seems like genuine strides in right direction for the club. More enjoyable trip home.
— Tom May (@TomMay1) November 25, 2016
Northampton Saints: Foden, Elliott, Burrell, Hutchinson (Wilson 66), Collins, Myler, Kessell, A Waller (E Waller 69), Haywood, Brookes, Craig (Hill 48), Day (Onojaife 62), Paterson, Gibson, Nutley (Ludlam 74)
Replacements not used: Clare, Groom, Hanrahan
Newcastle Falcons: Tait, Goneva, Waldouck (Burdon 25), Socino, Watson (Connon 62), Hodgson, Young, Vickers, Lawson (Sowrey 73), D Wilson (S Wilson 57), Green, Witty (Civetta 73), Chick (Fonua 62), M Wilson, Hogg
Replacements not used: Rogers, Egerton
Northampton Saints 16
Pen: Myler 3
Newcastle Falcons 22
Tries: Hodgson, Witty, Goneva
Con: Hodgson 2
Referee: Andre Jackson