Wilson doubles up as leaders Saints down Falcons

DOUBLING UP - James Wilson scored twice for Saints at Newcastle (Pictures: Linda Dawson)
DOUBLING UP - James Wilson scored twice for Saints at Newcastle (Pictures: Linda Dawson)

James Wilson’s brace sandwiched a fine Tom Stephenson score as Saints made it 10 Aviva Premiership wins on the bounce with a 22-16 success at Newcastle Falcons.

Jim Mallinder’s men flew into a 19-6 half-time lead at a blustery Kingston Park, with Stephen Myler adding two successful conversions to Wilson’s double and Stephenson’s effort.

Newcastle replied through two Rory Clegg penalties and the fly-half added another after half-time to keep his side in losing bonus point contention.

A try from former Saint Noah Cato and Joel Hodgson’s conversion secured that, while Saints only registered three points after the break, through Myler.

The away side had dominated every facet of the game during a one-sided first half, but were made to work hard after the interval.

But work Saints did, earning a win that means they have still not lost in the league since going down to a 26-24 defeat to Gloucester on September 21.

The visitors were always going to be heavy favourites to flay a Falcons team whose form was an antithesis of their own.

Newcastle had fallen to defeat in their previous eight league games, but were boosted by the news England star Ben Foden would not be on the Northampton bench after the decision was taken not to risk him.

It looked a wise option as the surface cut up badly within the first few minutes of the game, resembling a regularly used horse racing track in places.

That led to a few slips and spills early on, with Saints doing well to recover after Wilson got stuck in the turf on trying to gather the ball.

But Mike Haywood kept his feet well to spring into the home half and the impressive Kahn Fotuali’i put his team in a good position in the Falcons 22.

Newcastle made a mess of the lineout, giving Saints a free-kick which they used well as Haywood’s pass sent Wilson over for his third try in four games.

Myler’s conversion caught the wind, seeing it fall well short of the posts, before Newcastle responded with a Clegg penalty to cut the gap to two points.

But Saints were dominating possession and they soon had further reward as Stephenson jinked his way through a static Falcons rearguard to score his first senior try.

Myler added the extras to that fine score, but Clegg again landed an immediate riposte as Newcastle were gifted another cheap penalty.

And they soon had another as real aggression at the breakdown won another effort from the tee, but Clegg missed for the first time in the game.

Falcons were starting to ship plenty of penalties of their own, though, with the Saints pack turning up the heat and Wilson’s booming boot used to find good touch.

The full-back was revelling in the conditions and after a slick move involving Jamie Elliott, Fotuali’i, Myler and George Pisi, Wilson found his way over the line again.

Myler’s conversion bamboozled the crowd as it started way right of the posts before bending through the uprights to give Saints a 19-6 lead with five minutes of the half to go.

Saints had totally dominated the first period, with the Falcons struggling to exit their own territory.

But the Falcons emerged with the bit between their teeth in the second half and a big defensive effort was needed to shut the door in their faces.

Saints were shipping penalties, though, and after skipper Phil Dowson was told to warn his team-mates about further infringements, Clegg kicked to cut the gap to 10 points.

But after Stephenson had ripped possession back at the other end of the field, Myler replied with a successful penalty from in front of the posts.

Saints weren’t looking likely to get the elusive fourth try, though, as they continually lost possession in the home half.

Newcastle, to their credit, had increased their own levels, and they had a try to shout about as Cato intercepted a stray pass and stormed over to score.

Replacement fly-half Hodgson added the extras to bring the home side back to within six points with two minutes to go.

But the Falcons opted to kick it out, rather than going for the win, as Saints extended their lengthy winning streak.

Newcastle: Tait; Cato, Tiesi, Helleur (Powell 47), Shortland; Clegg (Hodgson 63), Blair (Fury 71); Vickers (Strain 15), Thompson, Tomaszczyk (Brookes 63), MacLeod, McKenzie, Wilson, Welch (c), Hogg (York 40).

Replacements not used: McGuigan, Tomes.

Saints: Wilson, K Pisi (Autagavaia 73), G Pisi, Stephenson, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller (E Waller 59), Haywood (McMillan 73), Ma’afu (Denman 59), Manoa, C Day (Nutley 64), Clark (van Velze 60), Dowson (c), Dickinson.

Replacements not used: A Day, G Dickson.

Referee: Andrew Small

Attendance: 4,846