Saracens take the top spot in the Premiership

Jacques Burger walks off the field and into retirement

Saracens took the top spot in the Aviva Premiership standings after they beat Newcastle Falcons 23-14 at Allianz Stadium.

Saracens had to come from behind in the match as they trailed 3-14 at half time.

Newcastle will remain in the Premiership despite the loss as London Irish lost to Harlequins and have been relegated.

Continuing their hope for back-to-back Premiership titles, Saracens were blown away in the first 40 by an underperforming Falcons side.

Two tries from Marcus Watson gave Newcastle an 11-point lead at the break. But Jackson Wray went over twice in the second half to turn the game around, with Maro Itoje sealing the game late on.

On a day which the hosts hoped would be a celebration for the retiring Jacques Burger, it was the visitors who started much the stronger and found themselves held up on the line only six minutes in, with Saracens managing to shut the door as Falcons looked to knock it down.

It was the hosts who took a three-point lead though after 18 minutes, Charlie Hodgson making no mistake from his first effort of the afternoon.

That was all Hodgson had to show for the first half though, because Newcastle were dominant in the remaining 20 minutes.

After originally knocking on deep inside Saracens’ 22, Falcons won back possession and Watson edged himself over the line, with the TMO confirming after a series of replays.

Craig Willis converted from the touchline to give Newcastle a lead which they soon built on. Hodgson first had an opportunity to cut the gap to one, but he saw his kick bounce back off the sticks.

Falcons almost got their second try four minutes before half-time, Taione Vea crossing the line as part of a driving maul, but it was ruled out.

Not that they had to wait much longer. Willis’’ kick fell to Watson who went over, with the extras meaning Falcons took a 14-3 lead into the break.

But Saracens came out of the blocks quickly at the start of the second half. Chris Ashton first almost claimed his own kick as the hosts bore down on the line, until Wray grabbed their first try of the afternoon.

After a maul was dragged down, Sarries went again and Wray crossed the line, though Hodgson missed his kick at the posts.

On 54 minutes, the departing legend Burger was given a wondrous ovation as he left the field. And he watched on as barely a minute later, Wray crossed the line to become the second double scorer of the game.

It came from another driving maul, with the forwards heaving Wray over the line. Hodgson’’s conversion put Saracens a point ahead.

The number ten increased that gap with another penalty in a second half that completely contrasted the first.

Hodgson struck a post for the second time as he looked to stretch the advantage even further, but the pressure continued to build until the third try finally came.

Falcons could only withstand so much and Itoje went over to seal the points as Saracens recovered from the first half scare.

Final Score Saracens 23 (3) Newcastle Falcons 14 (14)

Scorers

Saracens
Tries – Wray 2, Itoje
Pen – Hodgson 2
Con – Hodgson
Drop –

Saracens (3) 23
Tries: Con: Pens:
Newcastle (14) 14
Tries: Cons:
Saracens guaranteed top spot in the Premiership with a comeback win at home to Newcastle Falcons.

Newcastle Falcons
Tries – Watson 2
Pen –
Con – Willis 2
Drop –

Match Officials
Referee :Ian Tempest (18th Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Phil Watters & Roy Maybank.
TMO: David Grashoff.

Teams

Saracens

15 Ben Ransom, 14 Chris Ashton , 13 Marcelo Bosch , 12 Brad Barritt (c) , 11 Chris Wyles, 10 Charlie Hodgson , 9 Neil De Kock ,1 Richard Barrington , 2 Jared Saunders, 3 Titi Lamositele, 4 Maro Itoje , 5 Jim Hamilton, 6 Michael Rhodes , 7 Jacques Burger , 8 Jackson Wray,

Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits , 17 Mako Vunipola , 18 Juan Figallo , 19 Hayden Smith , 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Richard Wigglesworth , 22 Nils Mordt, 23 Nick Tompkins

Newcastle Falcons

15 Simon Hammersley , 14 Alex Tait , 13 Chris Harris , 12 Adam Powell , 11 Marcus Watson , 10 Craig Willis , 9 Michael Young , , 1 Rob Vickers , 2 George McGuigan , 3 Taione Vea , 4 Mouritz Botha , 5 Sean Robinson , 6 Will Welch (captain) , 7 Dan Temm , 8 Mark Wilson

Replacements :16 Rob Hawkins , 17 Alex Rogers , 18 Andrew Foster , 19 Calum Green , 20 Richard Mayhew , 21 Ruki Tipuna , 22 Tom Catterick , 23 Tom Penny

 

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