Match Reaction: Saracens 21 Newcastle Falcons 6
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall welcomed Chris Ashton back with open arms after the winger made a try-scoring return from suspension as the Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders beat Newcastle Falcons.
Ashton’s late effort added to Marcelo Bosch’s first-half score, with Owen Farrell kicking 11 points to help the defending champions to a hard-fought win over the Falcons – who failed to score after the 11th minute.
And while McCall admitted the game was not one for fans of running rugby, he was pleased to have the prolific Ashton back in his side.
“It is good to have Chris back in the team and scoring tries. It wasn’t the best game for him to come back for but he got his name on the scoresheet,” he said.
“His attitude in training has been fine. He’s been waiting for this chance to play again and now he’s keen to get a couple of starts.
“We now just want to see more of what he’s given the club over the last four years.”
Supporting the @Saracens lads with my boy!
Well done lads👍
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas 🎅 🎁 🌲 pic.twitter.com/E8tm9wuzLK
— Brad Barritt (@bradbarritt) December 24, 2016
But McCall’s joy was tempered by news of the Vunipola brothers’ injuries.
“It’s not looking good to be honest,” he added. “Mako’s got to go and see his consultant in four weeks’ time and then we will determine how long he will actually be out.
“We have to let the injury settle down as much as possible to have any idea because otherwise you are just guessing.
“It’s a big blow to lose Billy and then Mako. Both are such important players or us. We were going to lose them for the Six Nations, but to lose them in the run up to that is so disappointing.”
Reaction | 🗣️ We’re delighted to win the match; Newcastle were good and had us under pressure at various times in the match – Mark McCall pic.twitter.com/I4VwZHFkB4
— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) December 24, 2016
Despite the scoreline, Falcons director of Rugby Dean Richards was heartened by the desire shown by his side, who kept the defecit to a converted score until the 70th minute.
“I was asked before the game if we had come down just to lose, and that is absolutely not the case,” he said.
Many thanks to the Falcons supporters who travelled down today or followed from afar. And to our hosts @Saracens for the usual top welcome.
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) December 24, 2016
“The boys came down to win, we pushed Saracens for 80 minutes and that’s the same approach we will adopt against Wasps and Bath over the next fortnight.
“The scoreline probably didn’t reflect the game but, having said that, when you get your chances you have to take them.
“We were disappointed to into half-time 13-6 down, and as a consequence we felt a little bit hard done to.
“It is difficult to criticise the players because they put in a massive shift against one of the best defences in the country.
“Sometimes it goes for you and sometimes it doesn’t, but it was never going to be easy against Saracens. You have to be at 100 per cent when you play against them and everything has to go for you, even if we felt we should have come away with more than we did in the end.”
Saracens: Maitland, Earle (Ashton 50), Bosch, Tompkins (Lozowski 71), Wyles, Farrell, Spencer (Wigglesworth 58); Barrington (Lamositele 63), George (Brits 50), Koch (Figallo 50), Skelton (Burger 51), Kruis, Itoje, Rhodes (Conlon 73), Wray
Newcastle Falcons: Tait, Watson (Waldouck 51), Burdon, Socino, Goneva (Willis 78), Hodgson, Takulua (Egerton 78); Vickers (Harris 78), Lawson (Sowrey 55), Welsh (Ryan 78), Green, Olmstead (Witty 47), Chick (Fonua 45), Wilson, Hogg
Tries: Bosch, Ashton
Penalties: Farrell 3
Newcastle Falcons 6
Pens: Hodgson 2
Referee: Matthew Carley