Northampton Saints 39 Newcastle Falcons 31 - Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

New year, same outcome.

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - Ken Pisi kept Newcastle Falcons on their toes (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
TOO HOT TO HANDLE - Ken Pisi kept Newcastle Falcons on their toes (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints started 2015 by securing a seventh bonus-point success in nine outings at Franklin’s Gardens this season.

And the only surprise was that they briefly let their guard down when it appeared they were home and dry with plenty left in the tank.

Newcastle Falcons were plucky and put together some slick moves, especially the one which culminated in full-back Alex Tait crossing the line with 15 minutes to go.

But Saints had the final say as Luther Burrell put the gloss on an offensive performance that once again exhibited the fruits of attack coach Alex King’s labours.

At times in the first half, the home team were dazzling, flinging the ball around so quickly that the Falcons were left looking like they had been on the waltzers.

Stephen Myler’s score was a thing of beauty with the effort one out of the Saints picture-book.

And George Pisi’s, which was started by a typically rambunctious run from George North and finished with Myler’s clever grubber kick finding the Samoan, was also eye-catching.

Saints needed such moments of magic against a Falcons side who threatened to frustrate with a resilient rearguard action at times during the first half.

And Dean Richards’ men also packed a punch at the other end, with their forwards refusing to be overawed by the home pack.

Table-topping Saints were not happy with conceding 31 points at home to the side who currently sit second bottom of the Premiership.

And there is a desire to iron out the issues that allowed Falcons to find their way over the line four times.

The pride of the Saints pack will have been dented by Richard Mayhew’s score from a maul and the rest of the team won’t be delighted with allowing so many consolation tries.

But, as they did at Twickenham on the previous Saturday, Saints emerged victorious.

Winning has been a healthy habit once again this season, with 15 successes earned from the 18 games so far.

Newcastle have been on the end of three of them.

So in many ways, the new year started in the manner of its success-laden predecessor.

That is exactly what Saints will have wanted.

And now they will be eager to ensure things get even better as they bid to add more trophies to the cabinet in 2015.

How they rated...


An impressive performance from the full-back who wreaked havoc with some brilliant breaks that had the Falcons floundering... 8


A real livewire, the Samoan wing continues to get better and better and he played key roles in a couple of tries here... 8


Beat his brother to the ball to get his name on the scoresheet and this was a fine all-round display from the centre... 8


Is staking his claim for Six Nations starts with some fine form and this was another good showing, full of power and panache... 7


His brilliant break started the move from which George Pisi scored and he was a handful for Newcastle all night... 8


Hit the 2,000-point barrier with a second-half conversion, and prior to that he had pulled the strings for Saints, scoring an early try and setting up George Pisi’s effort... 8


Got his team on the front foot in the first half and his speed of thought was important as they pushed on after the break... 7


Newcastle gave as good as they got in the scrum but Saints were able to build a good lead before this man departed... 7


A couple of lineouts went adrift, which is unusual for the youngster, but aside from that, this was another good performance... 7


Not the easiest night in the set piece for Saints, but this man tried to get involved as much as he could elsewhere and didn’t do badly... 6


Does not look out of place in the second row and although it restricts him a bit more than playing at No.8, he is doing a good job for the team... 6


Was forced off with an injury but had done well before that, playing his part in another strong attacking display... 7


A typically determined display from the flanker, who put himself about and showed good strength to grab a second-half score... 8


Was handed the role of skipper and enjoyed this outing against his former club, making some good carries... 7


A performance packed with character as he kept his mind on the job and showed his ability in attack and defence... 8

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

TOM WOOD (for Day 45)

Was called on earlier than expected due to Day’s injury and looked glad to be involved as he tried to push his team on... 6

ALEX CORBISIERO (for Waller 51)

Came on at a time when Saints look likely to go off the leash and really put Newcastle to the sword, but the Falcons fought back well... 6

GARETH DENMAN (for Ma’afu 56)

Not a bad game to come into as Saints had a good cushion, but was forced to help hold off the Falcons as they mounted a late charge... 6