Northampton Saints 14 Newcastle Falcons 16: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Courtney Lawes returned from England duty to start for Saints
Courtney Lawes returned from England duty to start for Saints

Any Saints fan who witnessed the win against Wasps a couple of weeks ago and the defeat to Newcastle on Saturday could have been forgiven for wondering where it all went wrong.

Saints went from slick and seriously dangerous against Wasps to sloppy and seriously in danger against Falcons.

While they were ruthless against the men from Coventry, they were, two fine finishes from Cobus Reinach aside, largely toothless against the team from Newcastle.

And, no matter who you're playing in the Premiership - top or bottom - you will get punished if you fail to put teams to away.

Wasps were never really given a sniff by Saints a couple of weeks ago, with the away side's scores only coming as Chris Boyd's team were moving out of sight.

But Newcastle, despite barely landing a punch for 70 minutes of the match, were always in with a chance.

Andrew Kellaway was in action against Newcastle (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Andrew Kellaway was in action against Newcastle (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Firstly, because of some Saints indiscipline during the first half, which allowed Toby Flood to land two sucker-punch penalties.

That put Falcons 6-0 up in a game they certainly didn't deserve to lead and really should have been struggling to salvage a losing bonus point from.

Saints eventually responded thanks to some good awareness and speed from South African scrum-half Reinach, but their 7-6 advantage was nowhere near just reward for their abundance of territory and possession.

When they got into the Newcastle 22, they were far from clinical, failing to make the final pass and throwing the ball away under pressure.

Teimana Harrison was typically hard working

Teimana Harrison was typically hard working

Had they clung on to it, been patient and stopped trying the Hollywood offload, they might have had the scores they wanted.

But they didn't.

Then, when Reinach scored again 10 minutes into the second half, finishing off a fine move that was started by a Teimana Harrison break, Saints should have suffocated the Falcons.

With 50 minutes on the clock, it looked hugely unlikely that the away side would get anything from a game in which they struggled to apply any concerted pressure.

Cobus Reinach scored twice

Cobus Reinach scored twice

But with Saints making poor decisions, turning down kicks at goal and failing to exit their own half efficiently, Newcastle were given an invitation back into the game.

And, with a precious away win up for grabs, it was an invitation they were never going to refuse.

Saints could not cope with the late pressure, with referee Matthew Carley drawing boos from the home crowd as he continually punished the hosts.

And after Dan Biggar's sin-binning, the inevitable happened.

On the same day 12 months earlier, Newcastle snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

That left Saints in a precarious position as their poor form continued, and it was to be Jim Mallinder's final league game in charge.

Eventually, the black, green and gold stayed up thanks to a recovery in the new year, allied with London Irish's lack of points.

But this time round, there will be no such saving graces if the current pattern continues.

Saints have lost to the Premiership's bottom side in each of the past two weeks and those results put them in real peril.

By failing to take points themselves and presenting them to those below them, they are only heading in one direction.

And after Bristol battered Leicester prior to Saints' game against Newcastle, things just keep getting tighter.

Games like the one at home to Newcastle have to be targeted and won by Saints if they are to achieve their aims and avoid the trapdoor.

Because things don't get any easier, with their festive schedule including trips to Worcester Warriors and Wasps and a home clash with Exeter Chiefs.

Those matches would have filled Saints supporters with excitement after the events of a couple of weekends ago.

But now the buzz created by the Wasps win has disappeared, the current mood among the Gardens faithful is one of trepidation.

And that needs to change by the time that trip to Worcester rolls round four days before Christmas.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

Made a superb saving tackle to stop Vereniki Goneva scoring in the corner during the second half, but nothing really stuck in attack... 6

ANDREW KELLAWAY

One of the best performers so far this season, the Australian ace didn't have an easy day, failing to make one key pass that would have led to a try in the first period... 5

FRASER DINGWALL

Has now stepped up to become a starting centre in the first team, but the youngster missed a few tackles and wasn't able to have an influence in attack... 5

PIERS FRANCIS

Made nine tackles in the match, missing none, and also did his best to put Saints in good positions with the boot... 6

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO

Saints tried to get their big wing involved but he tried to be too ambitious with a few passes that didn't go to hand as his side lost their momentum... 5

DAN BIGGAR

Was sin-binned late on but had been having an assured game prior to that, doing a lot of things right before Saints switched off... 6

COBUS REINACH - CHRON STAR MAN

Was a real livewire and found the openings that others failed to, finishing his two tries superbly. But his late box-kicking issues caused problems for Saints... 7

ALEX WALLER

Saints had the upper hand at the scrum and this man didn't have too bad a day in open play... 6

DYLAN HARTLEY

Wasn't the way he wanted his 250th Saints appearance to end as he headed off the field with seven minutes to go and saw his side lose it late on... 6

PAUL HILL

Saints will hope his injury isn't serious after the prop was forced off at half-time following a knock... 6

DAVID RIBBANS

Was presented with the October player of the month prize in a low-key post-match ceremony and there was nothing he could do to save his side here... 6

COURTNEY LAWES

It wasn't a huge, stand-out showing that we've become so used to from the lock, but he was heavily involved and did little wrong, aside from some first-half back-chat to the referee... 6

JAMIE GIBSON

Looked to disrupt Newcastle's lineout and breakdown at every turn, but the away side were wise to him and kept things steady... 6

LEWIS LUDLAM

Racked up another big tackle count, making 18 on the day, but his energy didn't filter through to the rest of the team late in the second half... 6

TEIMANA HARRISON

His break and offload for Reinach's second score was the highlight of the match from a Saints perspective and he made a massive 27 tackles... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

BEN FRANKS (for Hill 40)

Helped Saints to continue their steady scrummaging display and certainly got stuck in after coming on at half-time... 5