Saracens kept the pressure on Exeter and Wasps at top of the Premiership table when they claimed a 35-27 win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Sunday.
Alex Lozowski provided the inspiration, scoring 13 of the Londoners’ first half points. Michael Rhodes also touched down as they went into the interval 18-6 in front – Sonatane Takulua kicking two penalties for Newcastle – before Chris Ashton extended Sarries’ lead in the second period.
Dominic Waldouck gave the Falcons hope with a try of his own, but Lozowski and Nathan Earle crossed the whitewash to secure the bonus-point win. Dean Richards’ side had the final word with Vereniki Goneva and David Wilson going over, but the visitors were ultimately too good.
Sarries’ Premiership title prospects have been dented over the Six Nations period, with injuries and international call-ups depleting their squad.
Defeats to Worcester Warriors and Gloucester duly followed, results which saw them fall behind Wasps and Exeter in the race for a home semi-final. However, victory over Sale Sharks last weekend boosted confidence and the inclusion of the Vunipola brothers at Kingston Park gave them further cause for optimism.
That was slightly blunted in the opening exchanges after Takulua gave the Falcons the lead from the tee but, when Lozowski equalised with a penalty of his own and a turnover allowed Rhodes to touch down, the visitors held an 8-3 advantage.
Newcastle’s scrum-half reduced the arrears with a second three-pointer but the Londoners were beginning to take control of the forward confrontations. That resulted in yet another infringement from the hosts and the visiting stand-off was once again on target.
Lozowski then extended their buffer when he latched onto Richard Wigglesworth’s intelligent grubber as the Allianz Park-based outfit went into the break 18-6 ahead. Saracens also controlled the early stages of the second half and excellent hands gave Ashton an easy finish on the right hand side.
It should have ended the match as a contest but, to their credit, the Falcons kept themselves in contention after superb work from Juan Pablo Socino sent Waldouck across the whitewash. Mark McCall’s men were too strong, though, as Lozowski and Earle completed the win, despite Goneva and Wilson dotting down for a couple of late consolation scores.
For Newcastle Falcons:
Tries: Waldouck, Goneva, Wilson
Cons: Takulua, Delany 2
Pens: Takulua 2
Tries: Rhodes, Lozowski 2, Ashton, Earle
Cons: Lozowski 2
Pens: Lozowski 2
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nili Latu 7 Will Welch (c), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ben Harris, 18 David Wilson, 19 Ally Hogg, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Chris Harris
Saracens: 15 Duncan Taylor, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (c), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Joel Conlon, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Max Malins, 23 Nathan Earle
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Stuart Terheege