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Ashton strikes to break Falcons hearts

15 Apr 2011
Ashton strikes to break Falcons hearts

Northampton came away from Newcastle with a 22-15 win, but the hosts managed to snatch a crucial losing bonus point to move off the bottom of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

That means that Leeds have returned to the foot of the ladder having played the same number of games as the north-east club. Chris Ashton's late try won the game for Northampton, after the boot of Jimmy Gopperth looked as though it would earn Newcastle an even better result.

Newcastle were given the best possible start with two Gopperth penalties in the first eight minutes and the Falcons pack were really up for the contest driving the Saints back at successive mauls to force Northampton into pulling it down.

Gopperth kept up the pressure with a dynamic run into the Saints 22, but Newcastle were turned over close to the Northampton line and Soane Tonga'uiha charged through as Saints finally showed some form, only for the Falcons to throw in some huge hits through Andrew Van der Heijden James Fitzpatrick to halt the drive.

Northampton took the lead with a controversial score after Lee Dickson appeared to knock on right on the Newcastle line. It was not given and to add insult to injury, referee Greg Garner penalised the Falcons and the Saints opted for the scrum and Ben Foden scorched through, with Stephen Myler converting for a 7-6 lead in the 25th minute.

Myler added a penalty 10 minutes later for offside and Newcastle were struggling to match the pace the Saints had injected into the game, and when Gopperth missed a penalty just before half-time it was a big blow for the Falcons.

He made up for it two minutes into the second half when Northampton were again penalised for pulling down the maul and that made it 10-9, but the Newcastle defence was really stretched when Jon Clarke made a big hole down the left and Bruce Reihana dived in for a try to make it 15-9 in the 49th minute.

Reihana was denied a second try six minutes later when Tom Catterick and Alex Tait gang tackled him right on the line and the video replay showed him coming up just short.

Calum Clark was then yellow carded for a late tackle on Gopperth as the Newcastle fly-half cleared upfield. Newcastle immediately banged the penalty into touch, drove the line-out and won a penalty for Northampton pulling it down again, and Gopperth cut the lead to 15-12 with the penalty. Phil Dowson was lucky to escape punishment when he seemed punch or push Gopperth in the face after the tackle and the Falcons were right back in the game as Myler knocked on in his own 22.

The Newcastle forwards piled in and Mark Sorenson was lucky to stay on the field after a spear tackle on Tim Swinson, but it was given as a penalty and Gopperth levelled the scores at 15-15 with just five minutes left.

Then with three minutes left, Newcastle turned the ball over in their own 22 and Ashton dived over in the corner to win it for Northampton. Myler's conversion from wide out made it 22-15, but Newcastle were able to hold the seven-point deficit and earn themselves a precious point.

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