Newcastle Falcons picked up what could be a crucial losing bonus point through Noah Cato’s try in a spirited but ultimately doomed fightback against Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton Saints, going down 22-16.
Trailing 19-6 at the interval, the Falcons limited Saints to just three points after the break and when Cato dotted down on 77 minutes, Joel Hodgson slotted the crucial conversion to seal a valuable point.
Tries in the first half from James Wilson (2) and Tom Stephenson saw Saints threaten to run riot but Rory Clegg chipped away from the tee and an improbable victory became a possibility when Cato went over.
It wasn’t forthcoming but having also picked up a bonus point last time out against Harlequins, the Falcons are now 12 points above bottom side Worcester Warriors.
The league leaders took just seven minutes to break the deadlock through James Wilson’s try and the Falcons were masters of their own downfall, Matt Thompson’s short lineout was ruled illegal and Kahn Fotuali’i’s quick tap led to the New Zealander going over in the corner.
Stephen Myler missed the difficult conversion however, and Rory Clegg posted an immediate response from the tee on ten minutes after an offside in the 22.
Saints remained on top however, and Tom Stephenson added their second try with a superb individual score on the quarter-hour, beating two defenders to touch down under the posts for to open his Aviva Premiership account – Myler converting.
Clegg hit back with another straight-forward penalty in front of the posts four minutes later, with the Saints penalised for holding on.
He missed a chance of a third on 25 minutes however, slicing wide from a difficult angle after the Falcons had turned over possession deep in the Saints’ half.
A scrum against the feed on the half-hour added to the hosts’ troubles however and the pressure paid off with Wilson adding his second on 32 minutes.
Jamie Elliott showcased his clever footwork to break the line, before Myler’s offload and George Pisi’s unselfish pass set up the full-back.
Myler added the extras, assisted by a strong wind, to give the Saints a commanding 19-6 half-time lead.
Mark Wilson’s inside pass allowed Chris York to gain valuable yards and an offside by the Saints gave Clegg a simple kick to reduce the deficit on 58 minutes.
Myler hit back with a straightforward kick off his own on 62 minutes though, taking full advantage of Newcastle indiscipline on their 22.
Cato set up a nervy finale for the league leaders however, intercepting George Pisi’s pass on the right-wing and running in a 40-yard try on 77 minutes.
Hodgson’s kick reduced the deficit to within a converted score and the Falcons pack forced a lineout with a minute remaining to regain possession but there was no way back for the hosts.