Saracens ground Falcons
Saracens continued their pursuit of champions and Aviva Premiership leaders Leicester with a 24-9 win over Newcastle that keeps them in second place.
At one stage, the scoreline stood at 11-9 with 27 minutes to play. But despite a gutsy rearguard action, and some fine goal-kicking by Jimmy Gopperth, the Geordies left Vicarage Road empty-handed.
James Short and Jared Saunders scored the two tries for the home side, who led 11-3 at half-time, with Gopperth successful with three penalties for Newcastle.
There was no surprise when Saracens took the lead after six minutes. Short scored the game's first try on the left after Alex Goode's break up the wing and neat pass inside to Chris Wyles. Goode was successful with the boot after 17 minutes, firing over a penalty awarded for offside.
A third miss from four shots at goal by Goode in the 32nd minute did not help the home side's cause. In fact their lead was reduced when Gopperth finally got Newcastle in the hunt with a penalty for offside in the 34th minute.
The first half, punctuated by endless reset scrums, ended with a change of home kicker as Owen Farrell took over from Goode - and promptly delivered with a 40-metre shot on the stroke of half-time.
Newcastle made a strong start to the second half, Gopperth scoring their second penalty just four minutes in. Saracens stormed back and won a scrum in front of the visitor's posts, but attacking wide left, skipper Steve Borthwick knocked-on and wasted the opportunity.
Newcastle, good at making the most out of little, cut the scoreline again after 53 minutes following another careless offside. Gopperth clipped over his third penalty.
But the margin was widened again within minutes when Farrell boomed a long-range effort from the half-way line. Saracens were showing signs of rustiness following their three-week lay-off but they got an opening on 61 minutes when Ally Hogg was sin-binned for ball-killing, but Farrell's ambitious effort from half-way faded away to the right.
The 20-year-old made no mistake in the 67th minute, steering home a penalty awarded for Newcastle charging into a ruck from the side. The game was up for the visitors when Noah Cato made a thundering surge for their line on the left. It took three defenders to halt the wing, and Saracens took advantage of the gaps to send Saunders in for their second try, with Farrell converting.