Andy Farrell made a successful GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP debut as Saracens destroyed Newcastle ruthlessly at Vicarage Road.
The former Great Britain and Wigan rugby league captain appeared as a 64th-minute substitute, and he took just three minutes to make his mark by securing lineout possession which set up Saracens’ fifth try.
Saracens already had the match sewn up when Farrell appeared, but it proved a satisfactory first experience of Premiership rugby six days after he made his union bow in GUINNESS A LEAGUE action against Harlequins.
Farrell will now report for England duty at Loughborough University on Tuesday as Andy Robinson oversees a one-day elite player squad session.
And although it is early days in the 31-year-old’s union career, it looks as though he could quickly grasp the basic skills.
The inevitable Farrell sideshow could not detract from an impressive Saracens display, as they steamrollered Newcastle to claim maximum points and their first Premiership win of the season through tries from Matt Cairns, Kevin Yates, Ben Russell, Kevin Sorrell and Shane Byrne.
Fly-half Glen Jackson kicked 19 points, and all Newcastle could muster were tries by centre Jamie Noon, scrum-half James Grindal and wing Tim Visser on an afternoon when they rarely rose above the ordinary.
While Farrell’s appearance inevitably commanded most attention, Saracens boss Alan Gaffney targeted a vastly-improved display from his team after last weekend’s 13-13 bore draw against Bristol.
Gaffney reacted to that performance by making five changes, which included a league debut for Fijian wing Kameli Ratuvou, while Newcastle replaced knee injury victim Jonny Wilkinson with Toby Flood and moved wing Tom May into midfield alongside Noon.
The Falcons also handed 6ft 4in Visser a full Premiership debut – he scored their winning try against Worcester nine days ago – but Newcastle had gone seven months without an away league win.
And the visitors were soon under pressure as referee Ashley Rowden punished their indiscipline to such an extent that Jackson kicked three penalties inside the opening 10 minutes.
Falcons skipper Matt Burke disrupted Jackson’s flow by finding the target from 50 metres, but Newcastle took a surprise lead when their first notable attack reaped rewards.
Burke’s angled run stretched the Saracens defence, and his inside pass sent England centre Noon scampering over for a try that Flood converted.
Saracens though, knew they already held a considerable edge in the forward battle, and their advantage was graphically illustrated on 19 minutes when a driven lineout ended with Cairns touching down.
Jackson added the extras before more powerful close-quarter work resulted in Yates rounding off some superb mauling that recuded Newcastle’s forwards to a collapsed heap under their own crossbar.
But Saracens briefly lost direction when lock Hugh Vyvyan was sin-binned for deliberate offside, and Newcastle made immediate gain from a temporary one-man advantage.
Saracens were still trying to reorganise their lineout formation without Vyvyan, when Newcastle poached quick ball and Grindal crossed unopposed.
Flood missed the conversion and a later long-range penalty as Saracens led 23-15 at the break, setting up Farrell’s eagerly-awaited Premiership entry.
Gaffney resisted any temptation to introduce Farrell immediately after half-time, and Saracens were soon on the front foot after Falcons flanker Mike McCarthy received a yellow card for tipping David Seymour from a lineout.
And McCarthy’s loss had grievous consequences for Newcastle as Saracens secured a try-scoring bonus point with two more scores in three minutes.
Russell was on hand to provide the simple execution when a dominant Saracens pack drove Newcastle back over their own line, then Sorrell marked his 150th Premiership appearance in style by weaving his way through an increasingly stretched Newcastle defence.
Jackson slotted both conversions, taking Saracens out of sight at 37-15 ahead with some 30 minutes of the game remaining.
Gaffney began to make full use of his bench, and Farrell finally took to the field with 16 minutes left, replacing an injured Kris Chesney.
French star Thomas Castaignede also gained a run-out after injury, and both players received rapturous welcomes from a crowd of just over 7,000.
Farrell’s first lineout take set up another Saracens try, with centre Ben Johnston capitalising on quick ball to set up an imposing attacking platform that created a score for replacement hooker Byrne.
Jackson converted to make it 44-15, although the final action saw Castaignede sin-binned for a tackling offence before Visser grabbed a consolation effort.