Experimenting works for Northampton as they beat Newcastle in Anglo-Welsh Cup
Northampton's experimental side - featuring one debutant and three first-time starters in their initial XV and five debutants off the bench - claimed a deserved 24-16 victory in their opening Anglo-Welsh Cup fixture against Newcastle at rain-soaked Kingston Park.
A 76th minute try by centre Rory Hutchinson ultimately sealed a 24-16 victory for Saints, after a 68th-minute score by Newcastle captain Alex Tait and conversion by home fly-half Mike Delany had cut their lead to 19-16.
Northampton had been in the driving seat with a 38th-minute try by England Under-20 winger Tom Collins, plus four penalties and a conversion by fly-half Sam Olver. Newcastle's only other points had come courtesy of three Delany penalties.
The visitors had 19-year-old Lewis Ludlam making his debut at number eight and there were first senior starts for flanker Jordan Onojaife, Fiji lock Api Ratuniyarawa and hooker Charlie Clare, while J ames Fish, Matt Beesley, Alex Moon, Devante Onojaife - younger brother of Jordan - and Juan Pablo Estelles made debuts off the bench.
Newcastle plumped for a more experienced line-up, although Scotland flanker Tyrone Holmes and Scotland Under-20 lock Andrew Davidson were both given debuts.
The most senior man on the pitch, 34-year-old former All Black Delany, opened the scoring for Newcastle, slotting a penalty directly in front of the posts in the fourth minute.
The hosts enjoyed the better of the early exchanges but Northampton levelled in the eighth minute when the Falcons defence drifted offside and Olver slotted the penalty.
Olver - son of former England hooker John - was wide of the mark with a drop-goal attempt and also struck the woodwork with a penalty as the visitors started to get into their stride.
However, the Northampton stand-off made no mistake from close range to give his team a 6-3 lead in the 27th minute.
Saints claimed the opening try two minutes before the interval, England centre Leroy Burrell making a line break in midfield from crisp line-out ball and Collins finishing off the textbook play.
Olver's conversion made it 13-3 to Northampton and, although a second Delany penalty in first-half overtime fleetingly cut the lead, Olver's third penalty success restored their 10-point advantage four minutes after the restart.
It took Newcastle until the 57th minute to make inroads, Delany's third penalty making it 16-9.
A 62nd minute penalty by Olver nudged the Northampton lead to 19-9 and they were to be grateful for the cushion when full-back Tait scored under the posts with 11 minutes to go and Delany added the extras.
That left Saints hanging on to a 19-16 advantage - until the 76th minute, when Tait failed to deal with a grubber kick and Hutchinson touched down.