Champions Saracens survive Newcastle fightback
Saracens overcame two yellow cards to make a winning start to their Gallagher Premiership campaign with a 32-21 victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park.
Newcastle fought their way back from 17-9 down at half-time and 22-14 with 20 minutes remaining to trail the champions by a single point.
However, Nick Tompkins’ try with four minutes left was followed by Owen Farrell’s conversion and late penalty, leaving the hosts without even the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Tries by Jamie George, two from Alex Lewington on debut and Tompkins gave Saracens the bonus point win – and the Falcons a lesson in finishing.
The visitors led 17-9 at half-time with strikes from George and Lewington converted by Farrell plus a penalty. Newcastle’s Toby Flood replied with three penalties.
George was booed when he scored in the corner as there was a hint of obstruction and a poor grounding but it came as a result of some fine inter-play by Alex Lozowski, David Strettle and Farrell and included a great take by George – and of greater significance was the fact the TMO was happy.
Saracens were bossing the game but even they were not immune to frustration and Flood’s third penalty in the 33rd minute reduced the champions’ lead to one point.
Saracens responded, swiftly recycling Sonatane Takulua’s box kick and Goode and Lozowski evaded two desperate tackles to send in Lewington for his debut try – which was converted by Farrell right on half-time.
The Falcons moved up through the gears after the break and they forced Saracens on to the back foot enough for Mark Wilson to break straight through the middle of the ruck on the 22 for a 55th minute try which made it 17-14.
Flood missed the straightforward conversion and Saracens made Newcastle pay five minutes later with a pulverising drive from Nick Isiekwe and Mark Itoje and a lovely floated pass from Farrell for Lewington to score in the corner.
Match Action | What a debut it's been so far for this man! pic.twitter.com/tEP0NaIzB4— Saracens Rugby Club (@Saracens) September 2, 2018
Tompkins was yellow carded for a hand in the face of Flood in the 64th minute and Goode joined him with 10 minutes left for an illegal tackle on Simon Hammersley.
Newcastle went straight to the corner with the penalty and drove Wilson over for his second trying – and when Flood converted Newcastle were within a point.
However, Saracens delivered the killer blow when Farrell fed Tompkins down the right for a bonus point try – and the late kicks took the visitors further clear.