Saracens claim bonus-point win at Newcastle Falcons

Saracens Billy Vunipola returned to action against Newcastle Falcons. Picture: RICHARD SELLERS/PA WI

Saracens Billy Vunipola returned to action against Newcastle Falcons. Picture: RICHARD SELLERS/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Saracens picked up a valuable bonus-point on the road with a 35-27 success at Newcastle Falcons – although it wasn’t always as comfortable as it sounds.

The Falcons gave the reigning champions as good as they got, in the first half especially, and finished with a late flourish.

But Saracens were clinical when their chances came and ran in five tries in total.

Billy Vunipola’s return was the headline prior to the match and both Saracens and England will be pleased to have seen the big number eight get 72 minutes.

Falcons got the first score with a Sonatane Takulua penalty but after Alex Lozowski levelled things up it was Saracens who landed the first try.

Michael Rhodes got it and although he’ll probably tell you later that it was a 40-yard surging run, in truth it was barely four inches.

Takulua was hampered trying to get the ball away from the base of a ruck and Rhodes flopped on the ball over the line with the home fans screaming for offside.

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The Falcons scrum-half narrowed the gap to two points, just a few minutes later in a breathless opening 10 minutes.

The next moment of note had the home fans up in arms again.

Takulua looked as if he had scored after a great break by Juan Pablo Socino but the TMO viewed it as a knock-on just before the line.

Saracens also had a try chalked off by the TV match official but in far less contentious circumstances, a clear knock-on this time in the build-up.

But the visitors did get a try as the half closed. Richard Wigglesworth kicked a beautiful grubber through a static home defence for Lozowski to score and his conversion, added to an earlier penalty, gave Saracens a comfortable 12-point lead.

Falcons could have scored right at the end of the first half but Alex Tait slipped after Sinotti Sinotti danced through the middle.

A break through the middle helped the hosts get their first try. Scino and Sinotti both found a gap eventually leading to Dominic Waldouck crashing over.

The problem was Saracens had actually started the half the better and got a wonderful try from Chris Ashton after the ball passed through a number of hands.

And any hopes the Falcons had of a comeback were doused with another Lozowski try and another intercept score.

Joel Hodgson can have no excuses; he was looking at his opposite number and still made the pass.

That was for the bonus-point and when Nathan Earle went over shortly after, the fight had well and truly gone from the Falcons.

Or so it seemed. Tries from Vereniki Goneva and David Wilson inside the last four minutes gave the hosts a sight of two losing bonus-points.

And they came close too but Saracens held on for the win to leave them third in the Aviva Premiership table.

Saracens: M.Vunipola, Brits, Figallo, Rhodes, Hamilton, Wray, Conlon, B.Vunipola, Wigglesworth, Lozowski, Maitland, Barritt, Bosch, Ashton, Taylor

Replacements: Saunders, Barrington, Du Plessis, Flanagan, Brown, Spencer, Malins, Earle

Tries: Rhodes 7, Lozowski 36, 65, Ashton 52, Earle 71

Conversions: Lozowski 36, 65

Penalties: Lozowski 6, 31

Drop goals:

Falcons: Vickers, Cooper, Welsh, Green, Olmstead, Wilson, Welch, Latu, Takulua, Hodgson, Sinoti, Socino, Waldouck, Goneva, Tait

Replacements: Lawson, B.Harris, Wilson, Hogg, Chick, Egerton, Delany, C.Harris

Tries: Waldouck 57, Goneva 76, Wilson 79

Conversions: Takulua 57, Delany 76, 79

Penalties: Takulua 3, 10

Drop goals:

HT: Newcastle Falcons 6 Saracens 18

Attendance: 7,899

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys