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Northampton Saints 37 Newcastle Falcons 23 Northampton Saints 37 Newcastle Falcons 23

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Northampton Saints 37 Newcastle Falcons 23

Northampton Saints produced plenty of fireworks on their way to an impressive LV= Cup opening-day win against Newcastle Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens.

Tom Collins, with a brace, and Mike Haywood scored the pick of the tries, with Teimana Harrison and Howard Packman also dotting down for the determined home side.

Newcastle had gone ahead through Tom Catterick's early effort, but they were made to pay for Alesana Tuilagi's first-half sin-binning, during which Saints scored twice.

The home team were in fine form, putting together a series of flowing team moves to leave the Falcons flailing.

And it ensured Jim Mallinder's side got off to a winning start in their bid to secure a home final in this season's competition, which will conclude at the Gardens in March.

Newcastle did pose a threat though, and after a rapid break that took them to within range, Andy Saull teed up full-back Catterick for the opening score of the game.

Rory Clegg's conversion took the away side into an early 7-0 lead, but Collins responded, jinking through the Falcons defence to claim a superb score.

Fly-half Will Hooley added the extras to restore parity, but Clegg edged Newcastle, who had lost imposing No.8 Uili Kolo'ofai to injury, back in front with a penalty.

Hooley levelled after an advantage failed to materialise, with Packman put into touch by a try-saving tackle from Jamie Helleur.

At the other end, former Falcons half-back Joel Hodgson, making his Northampton debut, denied Scott MacLeod at the last and then cleared Saints' lines after a scrum.

It was a missed opportunity for the Falcons, but they soon had another penalty to show for their efforts, with Clegg making no mistake.

But Newcastle were soon down to 14 men as Tuilagi was penalised for swinging an arm at Collins, who was forced off the field for treatment.

And Northampton immediately took of having a man more as the pack turned on the power to provide a score for flanker Harrison.

Hooley converted and there was to be another score before Tuilagi could return.

It was a sublime effort from Saints, who worked the ball from right to left, with Christian Day's exhibition pass teeing up Haywood for the try.

Hooley missed the conversion and Clegg was more accurate at the other end, notching his third penalty of the day.

That cut Northampton's lead to six points at the break, but they soon set about extending it after the interval.

And it was to be Collins who claimed the bonus-point score, charging through the middle to score another eye-catching try.

Hooley's conversion made it 29-16 and Northampton were looking comfortable.

Tuilagi squandered a scoring chance before the end, knocking on after good work from Danny Barnes in the build-up.

But Falcons did have their score when replacement Juan Pablo Socino showed good footwork to score, and Clegg's conversion cut the gap to six points.

However, Hooley was soon on target with a penalty and Packman had the final say with a swallow dive in the corner as Northampton claimed a fine win
 
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton on Sunday 22 March. Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets

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