Sarries hold off Newcastle

Date published: February 28 2015

Three late penalties from Ben Spencer were enough to see Saracens to a nervy 22-17 win over Newcastle at Allianz Park.

Despite being outscored three tries to one, the home side escaped with the win after their replacement scrum-half put over three second-half kicks.

Andy Saull, Alesana Tuilagi and Will Welch had given Newcastle a 17-13 lead early in the second half before Spencer brought Sarries back.

Saull's try gave the Falcons a deserved 5-0 advantage but Charlie Hodgson's penalty and David Strettle's effort took Sarries 10-5 in front.

Tuilagi's touchdown restored parity, but Hodgson's three-pointer meant the hosts went into the interval in the lead.

Welch crossed in the second period for Newcastle's third score of the afternoon, but three successful penalties from replacement Ben Spencer snatched the win for Saracens.

Despite going into the game in the top-four, the London-based outfit have been disappointing at times this season.

A lacklustre performance against Sale Sharks last weekend saw them go down 14-10 to their top-six rivals.

Without their England players they looked disjointed and Mark McCall's men were similarly dysfunctional at the start of this game.

Their maul defence, usually so reliable, was for the second time in a week put under pressure as Saull rumbled over for Newcastle.

To Sarries' credit, they hit back through Hodgson's penalty and a well constructed move which ended in Strettle touching down.

However, the hosts were still susceptible and Tuilagi rolled back the years by charging down the left-hand side, bumping off full-back Ben Ransom and finishing in the corner.

It levelled the match at 10-10 but Saracens went into the break ahead via another successful three-point attempt from their fly-half.

That advantage didn't last long as minutes into the second period another drive resulted in a try for Newcastle, this time from captain Welch.

The set-piece was proving to be a strength but it began to go awry as the home side assumed control of the scrum battle. A Newcastle infringement duly gave Spencer, kicking in place of the injured Hodgson, an opportunity to reduce the deficit, which he duly took.

Sarries were now in charge and the scrum-half's second successful effort off the tee gave them the lead once more. This time they didn't relinquish their dominance as another Spencer three-pointer secured the victory.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Try: Strettle
Con: Hodgson
Pens: Hodgson 2, Spencer 3

For Newcastle:
Tries: Saull, Tuilagi, Welch
Con: Catterick

The teams:

Saracens: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Wyles, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Neil De Kock, 8 Jackson Wray, 7 Jacques Burger, 6 Nick De Jager, 5 Alistair Hargreaves (c), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Petrus Du Plessis, 2 Jamie George, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Brett Sharman, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Juan Figallo, 19 Jim Hamilton, 20 Matt Hankin, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Tim Streather.

Newcastle: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Gonzalo Tiesi, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 6 Will Welch (c), 5 Dom Barrow, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Juan Pablo Orlandi, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers.
Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Mark Irving, 19 Calum Green, 20 Chris York, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Alex Tuilagi. Date: Saturday, February 28

Venue: Allianz Park
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Andrew Small
Assistant referees: Peter Huckle, Robin Goodliffe
TMO: Trevor Fisher