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Hodgson on song in Sarries win

Former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson marked his first appearance of the season with an 18-point haul in a 40-3 victory over Newcastle that saw Saracens move two points clear of nearest rivals Northampton at the top of the Aviva Premiership.

Veteran Hodgson was back in action after an Achilles injury and scored the opening try, two conversions and three penalties as Sarries bounced back from the 17-16 Heineken Cup defeat to Toulouse and last weekend's 41-20 Premiership hammering at Northampton.

Left-wing David Strettle, hooker Jamie George and full-back Alex Goode scored second-half tries to secure a bonus-point win for the leaders before Goode converted Strettle's second try three minutes from time.

Saracens were without England internationals Chris Ashton, Joel Tomkins, Owen Farrell, brothers Mako and Billy Vunipola and Scotland captain Kelly Brown and took time to get into their stride and overpower Newcastle, who had taken an early lead through fly-half Phil Godman's penalty.

The Falcons had the best of the early exchanges but squandered the chance to capitalise when Godman's 10th-minute penalty - from an easy position - rebounded off a post.

But the fly-half made amends four minutes later with a more difficult kick following a Saracens' line-out infringement.

Sarries hit further line-out trouble when former England prop Matt Stevens was sin-binned for upending Newcastle lock Carlo Del Fava with an aerial challenge as he collected hooker Scott Lawson's throw.

The Falcons had the best of the opening quarter but failed to press home their advantage when Godman was off target with another penalty before opposite number Hodgson missed at the other end.

Down to 14 men, Saracens finally took the game to Newcastle but, following a move involving Hodgson and Argentinian debutant Marcelo Bosch, USA international Chris Wyles was stopped just short as he went for the line instead of passing to winger Michael Tagicakibau outside him.

But, when the ball was recycled, Hodgson spotted a gap in the Falcons defence and went through it untouched for a well-taken 28th-minute try, which he converted.

Hodgson increased the lead to 10-3 after Newcastle left-wing Ryan Shortland looked fortunate to escape with a penalty as the only punishment for upending Will Fraser after the airborne Saracens flanker had beaten him to a high kick.

Hodgson struck his second penalty two minutes after the interval and stretched the lead to 13 points after the rampant Saracens scrum forced the back-pedalling Newcastle pack to concede a penalty directly in front of their posts.

Saracens' second try came in the 57th minute when full-back Goode threaded a diagonal left-foot kick through the Falcons defence for Strettle to collect and touch down by the corner flag.

Hodgson's touchline conversion attempt hit the post.

Saracens' scrum dominance produced their third try as they produced a classic line-out and drive to force man-of-the-match George over the line - but Hodgson saw a second successive kick rebound from the upright.

Goode finished the 69th-minute bonus-point try, created by Hodgson and Fraser, with Hodgson converting before Strettle grabbed his second try three minutes from time, with Goode adding the conversion.


From Belfast Telegraph