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Falcons fail to fly while Saints soar

Having seen Quins being pipped at home by Tigers on Friday night I was very worried about the potential banana skin of our fixture against Newcastle Falcons.

Falcons appear unable to catch a cold this season so far but last week they notched up a maiden win against Perpignan and it has also been announced that Steve Diamond is taking over as DoR. We have been on the sticky end of a new coach bounce back before, I think it was Steve Diamond at Worcester that time, so I was certainly not counting any chickens.

Add into the mix our injuries – still the trio of hobbling wingers out of the reckoning, the super seven called up for England and the as yet to be defined ban for Curtis, we were 11 first choice players down before you even start to cast around. So it as an interesting side that took to the pitch on Saturday with a new half back pairing of James and Savala  and a new centre partnership of Burger Odendaal and Tom Litchfield. Rory Hutchinson was making a rare appearance at full back for his 150th outing in GB and G and there was an even rarer appearance on the wing of loan player Gabriel Hamer-Webb. Ollie Sleightholme was on the other wing.

The Gardens was very well attended – your correspondent was slow in getting to game due to a migraine but arrived in good time to get settled before kick-off, unlike some people in our row who seemed to think arriving 20 minutes into the game a dithering about was acceptable....grrrrr.

Anyway onto the action on the pitch: Newcastle took first blood with a penalty after the Falcons’ Number 8 had the temerity to intercept a pass as Saints were doing Saintly things and having fun. How very dare he!

The situation never looked stressful, however, and Courtney Lawes got another try under his belt – his third this season making this his highest scoring season for the Saints. The extras were added by one of the newer Saints, Charlie Savala nailed a difficult conversion from the touchline for his first ever Saintly points.

The speedster Radwan kept Falcons in touch with a try converted by Johnson which took Falcons briefly back into the lead. A penalty try nosed Saints back in front where they stayed despite another penalty from the Geordies.

Big Trev (Trevor Davison) did what he does best and won a scrum penalty against his former team, a kick to touch from Hutch and a lineout led to Sam Matavesi getting a score, Savala missed this conversion.

Falcons went in for their oranges just six points behind and can be forgiven for feeling pleased with themselves at that point.

The first ten minutes of the second half were slow but a Savala off-load saw Tom Litchfield charging up-field  then a pass to Tom James for a perfect Saintly bonus point score, Savala was back on target.  Less than ten minutes later Ollie Sleights galloped over for his seventh try this season, Savala hit the posts with the conversion attempt and Saints were sitting pretty at 31-13.

During this time Falcons had pressed hard and the Saints defence must take a bow here with some sterling work from returning skipper Lewis Ludlam amongst others to hold Newcastle to just their 13 points.

The game got a little bit loose now as there were various substitutions made on both sides. The usual prop replacements had been done with Haffar coming for Waller and Millar-Mills, celebrating his Scotland call-up for Big Trev. Lewis Ludlam was replaced by Juarno Augustus just after the hour mark and Angus Scott-Young bounced on to replace Courtney. The France-bound Moonie (La Lune maintenant, n'est pas?) stepped in for Temu.

There was a period of aerial tennis where I noticed the forwards from both sides simply standing in the middle of the pitch watching the ball sail backwards and forwards over head. They looked as interested as I felt.

There was some shuffling among the backs as Joel Matavesi replaced Hamer-Webb putting Tom Litchfield out on the wing and Matavesi in the centre. Then Callum Braley replaced Odendaal, Tom James went out onto the wing and Tom of the Litchfield variety slipped back into the centre. But his versatility wasn’t finished as in the dying minutes of the game Sam Graham limped off and Mr Dependable Litchfield scrummed down on the flank!

Before Sam G went off he came within inches of scoring realised he was short of the line and placed the ball back for Juarno Augustus to seal the deal with an outrageous acrobatic display to squeeze his not inconsiderable frame into the corner and clear of the touchline to score. Savala notched up the extra two and Saints finished with a comfortable 38 points to 13.

So with other results going in our favour we sit on top of the pile with a seven point cushion – we are way out of our comfort zone here as supporters but fortunately not this squad who proved on Saturday that we might not have the largest squad in the premiership but by goodness the quality is immense!

For witterings to match these ramblings take a listen to Ladies Wot Pod on Applepodcasts,  Spotify, You Tube.

Photographs as ever from Claire Jones at Red Hat photo.


Back in action - skipper Lewis Ludlam returned from injury


Briefly in Saintly action - loan player Gabriel Hamer-Webb making an impact


Action man - Temu Mayanavanua taking on the opposition, two at a time!


New Saint Charlie Savala and his kicking action and 150 times a Saint Rory Hutchinson on the charge


Tom Litchfield playing at centre, or wing, or back row.......have boots will travel!

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