Saracens heap more woe on lowly Falcons
October 9, 2011
Alex Goode crossed for one of three Saracens tries
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Saracens kept up the pressure on Aviva Premiership leaders Harlequins after they condemned struggling Newcastle Falcons to a 25-5 defeat at Vicarage Road.
Joe Maddock, Alex Goode and James Short crossed for Sarries, with Charlie Hodgson adding two conversions and two penalties, while the Falcons' only points came through Luke Fielden's 17th-minute try.
But the reigning champions trooped off at the end looking dejected at their failure to convert an emphatic percentage of possession and territory into a fourth try and a bonus point.
Bottom club Newcastle never looked capable of springing a surprise, but that did not stop them erecting a defiant barrier during the final quarter.
With Hodgson at the helm, the hosts swamped Newcastle from the kick-off, forcing the visitors back into their 22. But the Falcons held out and launched a strong attack of their own, undone by a careless knock-on close to the line.
Saracens resumed their offensive and took a deserved lead on 15 minutes when Maddock took a pass from Goode and raced in on the right following a series of quick phases. But Hodgson's attempted conversion faded across the face of the goal.
Newcastle responded in kind within two minutes, right wing Fielden forcing the ball down on the right despite being tackled by Short feet from the line. Jimmy Gopperth, like Hodgson a renowned goal-kicker, watched his conversion attempt also sail wide.
Hodgson made no mistake with his next shot at goal, though - a 24th-minute penalty following a scrum offence. Referee Luke Pearce then signalled advantage to Saracens for offside as Hodgson fired out a fine pass right to Owen Farrell. But the centre knocked on with Newcastle in retreat, so Hodgson went back to the penalty and drilled it between the posts.
Saracens were now in full flow, and a sweeping cross-field passing move produced a second try when Farrell's pass armed full-back Goode to score in the left-hand corner on 36 minutes. Hodgson added the conversion.
Newcastle, struggling in the lineout, found it tough to get the ball to add to their earlier score. And when Pearce penalised Saracens at a ruck outside their 22, Gopperth's penalty crashed against the right post and back into play, signalling the end of the first half.
Saracens made their intentions clear from the restart as Hodgson's short pass sent Jackson Wray powering into the heart of Newcastle's defence, where it took three tacklers to down the big flanker. They were not as successful minutes later. Short made a dazzling 80-metres run that left three tacklers in his wake and, although halted initially, the ball was recycled and Brad Barritt returned it to Short. His plunge for the line was almost held up, but the referee was on the spot to award the score and Hodgson added the extra points.
This came as a bitter blow to Newcastle, who shortly before thought they had scored their second try. Barritt's attempted clearance was charged down by Joe Graham and Ally Hogg forced his way to touch down by the left flag - but not before his left foot had strayed into touch.
It was one-way traffic for the rest of the match as Saracens chased the all-important fourth try and the bonus point it earns. Newcastle were long resigned to leaving Vicarage Road empty-handed, but they made their tackles and battled without pause to frustrate their hosts.
Saracens, so expansive for long periods, opted for a close-range series of drives in an effort to suck in defenders, but not even a brilliant pass from David Strettle, delivered from around his back, could unlock an increasingly stubborn rearguard.
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