Tom Vickers’ Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints view and player ratings

TRY DELIGHT - Tom Stephenson dives over for his score at Newcastle Falcons (Picture: Fatima Mirzai)
TRY DELIGHT - Tom Stephenson dives over for his score at Newcastle Falcons (Picture: Fatima Mirzai)

On a surface more akin to a racecourse than a rugby pitch, Saints once again showed their pedigree to pick up another four points.

At times in the second half the going was extremely heavy, but the race was already won thanks to a slick exit from the stalls.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

James Wilson’s double and Tom Stephenson’s silky score put Saints in a position of power that they never looked likely to relinquish.

Having registered three times before the break, they may regret not grabbing all five points, but, in truth, the second half never promised to yield a fourth try.

Instead, Newcastle finally found their feet to mount a challenge, with former Saint Noah Cato’s try giving them a losing bonus point.

It was one widely celebrated in the battle against the drop, with the Falcons opting to kick the ball out late on rather than go for what could have been a match-winning score.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

That says a lot about their situation, and it says a lot about Saints, too.

Newcastle know all about the ability in this Northampton team and weren’t prepared to gamble with their point.

They stuck instead of twisting.

For Saints, it meant another win, their 10th in succession in the Aviva Premiership and 11th in a row in all competitions.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

That impressive sequence has been achieved through grit and determination in varying conditions.

There has been wind, rain and plenty of mud, but Saints have stuck to their guns and come out on top.

This game had extra demands, with a smiling Sam Dickinson revealing in his post-match interview that some of his team-mates felt like they were sinking while standing on the pitch.

Catching and kicking took on a whole new dimension as the players battled what resembled quicksand under foot, making life pretty tricky for all concerned.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

But Saints weren’t about to complain, dealing with the conditions well and still managing to play plenty of rugby.

The forwards have come to the fore during the fine recent run, but the first half saw the backs also step up to the plate.

Scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i was involved in everything, fizzing the ball around the park at a speed the Falcons struggled to cope with.

Wilson popped up in all the right places and Stephenson showed he could side-step man in a phonebox as he made his way over the line.

Stephen Myler also demonstrated plenty of invention and no member of the starting 15 lacked in creativity or application.

The second half was a very different story, with the performance as turgid as the pitch.

But Saints had done what they needed to.

They’d fought the Falcons and the conditions and come out on top.

And on days like that, you have to chisel the mud off your boots and be happy with the four points.

They might not have cantered to victory, but Saints are still very much on track for claiming the grandest of national trophies at Twickenham come May.

How they rated...

JAMES WILSON - CHRON STAR MAN

Scored two tries and also exhibited his booming right boot, finding good touch in tricky conditions. Such an asset to this Saints squad... 8

KEN PISI

Was unable to get into the game as much as he would have liked on a difficult day for the speedsters, with the pitch crumbling under foot... 6

GEORGE PISI

Some lovely little offloads from the Samoan, who teed up Wilson’s second score with an unselfish pass... 7

TOM STEPHENSON

Backed up his fine showing against Worcester with an even better one here. Made plenty of metres and scored a dazzling first senior try... 8

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Continually looked for work and played a key role in Wilson’s second score, running a nice line to get Saints up to the Newcastle whitewash... 7

STEPHEN MYLER

Lovely pass in the build-up to Wilson’s second try was cancelled out by an errant one to Noah Cato, who scored for Falcons. Kicked fairly well in horrible conditions... 7

KAHN FOTUALI’I

The fulcrum of this Saints team. So aware of everything that goes on around him and kept the side ticking over with sharp passing and a clever kicking game... 8

ALEX WALLER

Did what he had to well. Newcastle weren’t too easy to crack up front but Saints did have the better of it... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

Made one important break over halfway and floated a nice pass out to Wilson for the Kiwi’s first score. A really impressive performance from the young hooker... 8

SALESI MA’AFU

Like Waller, competed well in the scrum and poured plenty into what was a big team effort during the first half... 6

SAMU MANOA

Newcastle contained the big America fairly well, but he was still able to stamp some of his trademark power on proceedings... 7

CHRISTIAN DAY

Good news for Saints that the experienced lock was back after injury and he showed his strength to keep Newcastle in check... 7

CALUM CLARK

Showed his intelligence with a couple of nice lofted passes that almost caught the Falcons cold and was impressive in his normal role, too... 7

PHIL DOWSON

The skipper made some big carries to keep the heat on his former team and was at the heart of the first-half push... 7

SAM DICKINSON

Made a couple of important challenges, haranguing Falcons players as they set their sights on the Saints line. Also reverted to lock again to good effect... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

GARETH DENMAN (for Ma’afu 52)

Standard substitution as the former Rotherham man was brought on to add freshness to the Saints scrum. Did what he had to do... 6

ETHAN WALLER (for A Waller 59)

Wasn’t the easiest game to come in to as the Falcons fought back, but didn’t do anything wrong... 6