MATCH REPORT | Saracens Men 37-19 Newcastle Falcons
Saracens Men saw out 2023 in style with a 37-19 bonus-point victory over Newcastle Falcons at a sold-out StoneX Stadium.
The Men in Black scored five tries to sign off the year when they regained the Gallagher Premiership crown with a win, and in the process move themselves well and truly back in to play-off contention.
The Falcons struck first as they made an ideal start with a penalty inside the first minute. Sarries were penalised straight from the kick off, and Rory Jennings punished them as he put the visitors 3-0 up from in front of the posts.
Sarries then started to click and hit the front with 10 minutes on the clock to give the sold out crowd something to shout about. Three penalties in a row gave them possession right on the line, and then after going through the phases Theo Dan was there to burst over from close range. The conversion went just wide, but now the hosts had a 5-3 advantage.
The game then started to open up after a quiet opening, and both Lucio Cinti and Rotimi Segun almost scored down their respective wings but were dragged in to touch just as they looked to dot down.
However just as it looked like the hosts would pull away, Newcastle struck in opportunistic fashion from Adam Radwan. Sarries had an overlap on the left but a speculative pass went to ground and the flying winger hacked the ball ahead, and used his searing pace to race clear from 80 metres. The conversion from Jennings, quickly followed by another penalty put the visitors 13-5 up.
A scrum penalty for the hosts then gave Vunipola a shot at goal, and he guided the ball straight through to cut the deficit to five and bring Sarries back within striking distance.
Iwan Stephens then thought he had scored another breakaway try for the Falcons as the ball came loose once again, but after a check upstairs there was deemed to have been a knock on in the build up.
From the resulting scrum, a penalty was awarded and Ivan van Zyl took it quickly before using his pace to run through from 10 metres and get the South Stand off their feet for try number two. Vunipola’s conversion put his side 15-13 ahead as we approached the break.
A try of the season contender was then cruelly denied as Olly Hartley thought he had scored a try to remember. Cinti somehow escaped his opposite number with a Strictly Come Dancing-esque pirouette, and then passed inside to van Zyl who juggled and popped it up to the centre but after a long check the pass was deemed to have gone forward.
Jennings did edge the Falcons a point ahead with four minutes left of the first half with an impressive penalty from the right touchline, but in the final play of the half Sarries struck to go in at the break ahead.
Alex Goode’s brilliant break in the midfield took play in to the 22, and then it was quickly moved from left to right to find Juan Martin Gonzalez who continued his incredible form with a try in the corner. Vunipola’s perfect conversion meant Sarries had a 22-16 lead at half time.
Sarries were buoyed at half time by the returning Ben Earl who made his return from injury in the second half, and an early penalty followed as Vunipola extended the lead to nine points.
Jennings reduced that gap to six with another well struck penalty shortly after, and then chances came and went for Sarries as Andy Christie and Jamie George both went close to the all-important bonus point try.
Segun almost marked his return with a memorable try when he stepped three defenders on the right touchline and looked to beat the final man, but he was hauled down just short and then the ball went forward from the breakdown.
To their credit, the Londoners stayed patient and were rewarded with 15 minutes remaining as the bonus point try arrived. A penalty was kicked to the corner, and then the maul was hammering towards the line before it was brought down illegally and gave the referee no option but to run straight under the posts and give Falcons captain Callum Chick a yellow card.
Stephens then came close to yet another breakaway try for the Falcons as the ball spat out of a ruck, but the returning Segun did brilliantly to chase back and then win a penalty at the breakdown to stop their momentum.
The result was then put beyond doubt with 10 minutes to go as Mako Vunipola bundled over to extend the lead even further. Once again a penalty was kicked deep in to the 22, and then the trusty rolling maul allowed the prop to break away in the corner for try number five.
Cinti almost rounded off the game in style as he looked to gather Tom Parton’s neat grubber through, but it had slightly too much on it and trickled past the dead ball line.
Mako Vunipla was then shown a red for a high shot, but that signalled the end of a crucial win for Sarries, who will head in to the New Year and a trip to Leicester Tigers next weekend with a spring in their step.