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Match Report: Saracens 21 Newcastle Falcons 6

24 Dec 2016
Match Report: Saracens 21 Newcastle Falcons 6

Saracens ended their stellar 2016 with a gritty win over Newcastle Falcons as Chris Ashton marked his return to action with the game-clinching try at Allianz Park.

Not as stunning as some of their performances this season, but Saracens were still too good for Falcons, despite the visitors having the better of the opening period.

The home side outscored Falcons two tries to nil, with Ashton adding to Marcelo Bosch’s earlier effort to a game in which Newcastle failed to score after the 11th minute.

Falcons got on the board early in the game as Mark Wilson wrapped up Ben Spencer, with the scrum-half eventually giving away a penalty that Joel Hodgson knocked over from 25 metres in the opening minutes.

But Saracens hit back immediately, with Owen Farrell’s re-start being expertly snared and Falcons infringing, giving the fly-half a simple kick to level matters after five minutes.

Falcons were using the rolling maul well in the early stages and got their reward with another penalty for Hodgson after a period of extended pressure from Newcastle in the Saracens 22.

Approaching the 20-minute mark Falcons had been the team on top, but Saracens had a chance to level things from the tee, however Farrell opted to kick for touch.

And the gamble paid off as Bosch danced through the Falcons defence from the resulting lineout – with Farrell converting from the left touchline.

The visitors’ heads did not drop, though, and they continued to press Saracens and run through their phases on the Saracens line, but the referee finally blew for a home scrum to relieve the pressure.

Despite the Newcastle dominance, it was Saracens that looked the more likely to score with their breaks gaining more ground than those of Falcons.

And they nearly got a second score on the half hour mark, but Niki Goneva intercepted a pass to keep the Falcons’ deficit at just four points.

But the lead was soon extended to seven as Farrell kicked a 30m penalty in front of the posts after Falcons infringed at the scrum.

With time running out in the first half Ben Spencer charged down a Saracens kick, catching the ball, but contrived to drop it two strides later when 50 yards out and with a clear route to the line.

Falcons’ Callum Chick, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Christmas Day, put in a series of big hits in the opening minutes of the second half but they eventually saw him withdrawn with an injury.

And Evan Olmstead went the same way with half an hour to play, Will Witty replacing the Canadian forward.

A significant change then came from Mark McCall, but only after Chris Wyles had to scramble to ground a dangerous Marcus Watson chip into the Saracens in-goal area, as he swapped Nathan Earle for the returning Ashton.

And the winger almost got a score approaching the hour mark, but his charge down was cleared by Alex Tait as Falcons remained just one converted score behind.

The cagey nature of the second half endured as one scrum followed another.

But it was Saracens that eventually scored the first points of the half as Farrell kicked a 69th-minute penalty after Falcons infringed at a scrum near the left touch line.

And Ashton then put the result beyond doubt as he crossed in the corner following a long, looping, pass to the right flank.

Farrell could not add the conversion, the ball blowing off the tee as he began his run up and the resulting drop goal attempt missing its target.

But it did not matter, as Saracens held out for a hard-fought win.