Northampton overcame the absence of their England quartet to convincingly defeat lowly Newcastle 34-13 at Franklin’s Gardens.
The home scrum was so dominant that the Saints should have won by a greater margin and not waited until the last action of the match before securing their bonus point with a fourth try.
Newcastle took a surprise lead after two minutes when Jimmy Gopperth kicked a 40-metre penalty after the Saints were penalised at a ruck. The Falcons were then dealt a blow when centre Gcobani Bobo was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on after 14 minutes.
The Saints took advantage to level the scores five minutes later when Micky Young was penalised for not releasing the ball and Stephen Myler kicked the 30-metre penalty. Minutes later they should have been in front after a succession of five-metre scrums eventually saw the ball moved sweetly along the line only for Paul Diggin to drop a good pass with the line beckoning.
Bobo returned for the visitors to coincide with the departure of Northampton number eight Roger Wilson with a leg injury. However, Northampton maintained the pressure and took the lead after 26 minutes. From a scrum 20 metres from the line, Lee Dickson broke through the defence to score a solo try which Myler converted. The Falcons protested to referee Nigel Owens about obstruction but to no avail.
The home side were beginning to dominate proceedings and nearly scored a second try, but after consultation with the TMO, Christian Day was adjudged to have been pushed into touch before grounding the ball.
With three minutes of the half remaining, Myler's clearance kick was charged down to allow the Falcons a rare period of pressure. However, they could not take advantage as Gopperth missed with both a penalty and drop-goal attempt to leave the Saints 10-3 ahead at the interval.
Northampton had their opponents in terrible trouble in the scrum and after five minutes of the second half they pushed the Falcons' pack fully 30 metres. Newcastle were penalised and Myler kicked the goal before scrum-half Dickson was forced off with a leg injury.
Totally against the run of play, Newcastle hit back to score an excellent try with the best movement of the match. Gopperth began it with a chip over the top from inside his own half. Charlie Amesbury collected the kick and ran strongly to develop a sweet passage of play which culminated in Jeremy Manning crossing in the corner for the try which Gopperth converted.
Northampton quickly responded when Greig Tonks burst through a couple of tackles to score a try which Myler converted, before Gopperth kicked another penalty to make it 20-13 to the home side. The Saints went further ahead when Joe Ansbro brushed aside Manning's tackle to score, and with Myler converting the game was safely in Northampton's hands.
And with the last action of the match, James Downey intercepted as the Falcons tried to run the ball from their own to score easily to pick up the valuable bonus point.