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Absences fail to stop Saracens

Saracens' decision to rest some of their star names ahead of next week's Heineken Cup semi-final paid off when the Aviva Premiership leaders edged Newcastle 23-18 at Kingston Park.

It proved closer than director of rugby Mark McCall may have liked when Newcastle scored a try four minutes from time and snatched a losing bonus point which will deflate fellow strugglers Worcester.

However, the win keeps Saracens top of the standings, and McCall said: "We expected a tough game after what happened to Newcastle at London Irish last week.

"We took the opportunity to leave a lot of players at home with one eye on the Clermont semi-final, but it just shows the quality of our squad we can do that and get a win. We're chuffed with that.

"It moves us up to 80 points in the log that more or less guarantees us the top spot in the competition at the end of the season.

"We also came through without any injuries and we have some reinforcements coming back and Alex Goode came through. I thought he was the stand-out player on the park in the first half and we didn't want him to miss another week with the Clermont game coming up.

"Resting that many players is a balancing act and we're lucky that we have the squad to be able to do that. We trust this group of players and they have done us well. Today was our 18th win out of 20 this season, which is pretty good.

"We have to manage our resources as best we can. It's difficult but when you have a good squad it makes it easier.

"The players front up and when you finish top of the table for two seasons running, it shows you're doing something right. And when you put yourself in enough semi-finals, you're going to win some of them and that's, hopefully, this year."

Sinoti Sinoti scored an early try for the Falcons but Tim Streather and Ben Ransom crossed over for Sarries . Charlie Hodgson kicked the rest of Saracens' points with namesake Joel booting two penalties for Newcastle.

Alex Tait's late scrambled try - confirmed after an agonising wait for the TMO's decision - and Phil Godman's extras clinched a losing bonus point for the Falcons to extend the gap between Newcastle and bottom side Worcester to eight points with just two games left.

"I'll tell you if that bonus point is important or not at the end of the season," said Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards.

"We have to go to Wasps and are at home to Exeter, and if we play like we did today then we should get something out of both those games.

"I could almost say I enjoyed the game, which was a quality match, but I never enjoy a loss. We had a young group out there and they acquitted themselves well. We were competitive for most of the game and we fought back well, but I would have much preferred a win.

"We showed a little bit of naivety and inexperience especially with their first try, but it was against a side who are at the top in terms of precision and accuracy when they do things.

"It's all good experience and hopefully we will be able to take that into next season and hopefully that will be in the Premiership."

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