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Falcons win thrilling encounter with Saints

Newcastle and Northampton shared 11 tries as the Falcons secured a 46-31 win to emerge as serious contenders for an Aviva Premiership top-six spot.

The Saints scored three tries before half-time after flying out of the traps, but they could not shake off a determined Newcastle side who were well off the early pace before picking up a fourth try and a bonus point late in the second half.

Northampton will not be happy to have lost after dominating much of the first half in front of crowd of 7,660 at Kingston Park, but the Falcons' fightback produced a game of the highest quality that featured some wonderful scores throughout.

The game was just two minutes old when Ben Foden left Joel Hodgson trailing in his wake to send winger Ken Pisin surging in at the corner and Stephen Myler, who did not miss a kick in the first half, converted what was a great opening try.

Foden's chip and chase set up Jamie Gibson's try in the sixth minute, although the pass in front of the West Stand to the former was fractionally forward, but it would have been a shame to chalk off the try after the quality of Api Ratuniyarawa's offload on the line for Gibson to score.

Myler made it 14-0 and he and Sonatane Takulua exchanged penalties for 17-3 as Newcastle battled their way back into the game when the Tongan crossed.

Pulsating runs by Vereniki Goneva and Nili Latu saw Takulua batter his way up to the posts and he scrambled over, converting for 17-10 in the 18th minute.

It was breathless stuff and Sinoti Sinoti nearly got clear to spill the ball on the Saints 22.

Northampton then claimed the bonus point with another wonderful score, Harry Mallinder passing and looping to take a high pass above his head on the touchline, with Myler converting from out wide to make it 22-10 in the 28th minute.

Five minutes before the break the Falcons hit back with prop John Welsh charging through the middle at deceptive pace. Calum Green took the inside pass and Goneva went close before Sean Robinson blasted his way over in the corner to make it 24-15, Takulua's conversion coming back off the post.

If Saints had dominated the opening exchanges in the first half, the Falcons turned the tables to do the same in the second, scoring after just two minutes thanks to Juan Pablo Socino's barrelling run and Mark Wilson's drive to set up Rob Vickers from close range.

Takulua converted and did so again two minutes later when Alex Tait juggled with the ball and got it to Sinoti, who danced away to score. When the winger went over again in the 51st minute after great work by Goneva and Welsh, Newcastle led 32-24.

It seemed all over when Kyle Cooper scored from close range and Hodgson converted to make it 39-24 in the 58th minute, but Saints certainly did not think so with Nicky Haywood crossing from a line-out catch and drive and Myler slotting the conversion again for 39-31 with 13 minutes left on the clock.

Newcastle's tackling was superb as Saints mounted wave after wave of attacks.

Crucially, Evan Olmstead turned the ball over on halfway with five minutes left. Mike Delany then went to the corner and Mark Wilson was driven over for the killer seventh try which, fittingly, Takulua converted from the touchline.

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