Sonatane Takulua scored a hat-trick as Newcastle Falcons staged a roaring second-half comeback to defeat Northampton Saints in a pulsating Aviva Premiership Rugby clash at Kingston Park.
Takulua ran in three of Falcons’ seven tries as the hosts won 46-31, despite the Saints starting at breakneck speed and crossing the Falcons try-line twice in the first six minutes.
The Falcons trailed at the interval after scores from Ken Pisi, Jamie Gibson and Harry Mallinder, all converted by Stephen Myler, had the visitors in control.
Myler added a penalty as the Saints amassed 24 points in the opening period.
A huge thank you to the 7,600 who turned up to watch another Kingston Park classic. Gather your breath back and head to the bars!
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) February 19, 2017
Takula scored a penalty, try and conversion, as well as a Sean Robinson score, to keep the Falcons within touching distance of the Saints, bagging 15 points of their own.
And any worries of the home side getting back into the game were swiftly extinguished within moments of the restart.
Rob Vickers plundered a try after excellent build-up work by Alex Tait and Mark Wilson, Takulula adding the extras.
What a come back from @FalconsRugby this team never dies! Loved the atmosphere and the running rugby, building something special up here! 🙌🏼
— Connor Bateman (@connor26677) February 19, 2017
And within seconds of the kick-off, Takulula dashed over in the left corner to secure the bonus point for the hosts as they moved into the lead, which they would not surrender.
But Falcons were not satisfied by simply being ahead, and moved further distance between the sides when Takulula dived over once more in the far left corner, after excellent running from Mark Wilson and Sinoti Sinoti.
Saints were reeling, and it got even better for Falcons when Kyle Cooper crossed for the sixth score for Dean Richards’ side, Hodgson securing the touchline conversion.
However, the home side were pegged back 12 minutes from time when hooker Mikey Haywood bulldozed over for the Saints, with Myler’s conversion narrowing the gap to eight at 39-31.
Saints threw everything at the Falcons defence as they tried to find a way back into the game, but Wilson removed all doubt when he crossed from a driving maul in the closing stages, Takulula adding the extras.
The result leaves Falcons seventh with 35 points from 15 matches, with Saints in eighth, a point behind.