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Saints book No.1 ranking

SATURDAY WRAP: Northampton Saints’ bonus-point 38-13 victory over winless Newcastle Falcons ensured they will remain top of the Premiership standings heading into the Six Nations break.

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The league leaders, bereft of players through international call-ups, took some time to subdue a battling Newcastle side, who belied their position at the bottom of the table by turning in a spirited performance.

However, the Falcons still ended up defeated once again and have picked up just four points from their 12 league fixtures this season, and remain without an away win since November 2022.

Courtney Lawes, Sam Matavesi, Tom James, Ollie Sleightholme and Juarno Augustus scored tries for Northampton, along with a penalty try, while Charlie Savala added three conversions.

Adam Radwan went over for Newcastle’s solitary try with Louie Johnson kicking two penalties and a conversion.

Rory Hutchinson, selected in an unaccustomed role of fullback, led out Saints on his 150th appearance for the club.

And he was instrumental in creating the first scoring opportunity of the game when he chipped ahead but a flying Sleightholme was unable to secure the touchdown before the ball ran dead.

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Northampton maintained the pressure but Falcons captain Callum Chick relieved it by intercepting a pass before kicking ahead. Saints then infringed under their own posts for Johnson to knock over a simple penalty.

The home response was swift with Lawes finishing off a succession of forward drives before Savala impressively converted from the touchline.

The lively opening continued with an excellent try for Newcastle. From a scrum in the opposition 22, they swiftly moved the ball along the line to provide Radwan with a walk-in.

Johnson’s conversion gave his side a 10-7 lead at the end of an entertaining first quarter.

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Falcons then suffered a double blow with Northampton being awarded a penalty try after Freddie Lockwood, in an off-side position, prevented Sleightholme from scoring with the flank collecting a yellow card for his troubles.

In Lockwood’s absence, Johnson reduced the arrears with his second penalty but on his return Matavesi crashed over from an unstoppable line-out drive for Saints to lead 19-13 at the interval.

Ten minutes after the restart, the home side scored their bonus-point try when Tom Litchfield’s break sent James on a 20 metre run-in before the industrious Sleightholme got his just deserts by scoring Saints’ fifth try.

Newcastle’s spirit was now crushed and it was cruel on them that Saints should add another try when replacement Augustus used his power to crash over from close range.

In the final minute, Falcons replacement Rory Jennings picked up a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on but the result was long since decided.

* In another Saturday match Bristol shredded the Premiership form-book by beating title contenders and fierce west country rivals Bath 57-44 in a remarkable Ashton Gate encounter.

An irresistible first-half performance saw Bristol run in five tries as Will Capon, Joe Batley, AJ MacGinty, Noah Heward and James Williams all breached Bath’s defence, with MacGinty kicking four conversions.

But the home side still had to endure a fraught finale when they had two players sin-binned in quick succession and Bath fought back from 20 points behind to just six adrift.

Bristol, 11 points and five places below their opponents before kick-off, ultimately capitalised on Bath being without several main players due to England’s Six Nations training commitments, although Scotland trio Finn Russell, Cameron Redpath and Josh Bayliss all featured.

Back row pair Fitz Harding and Magnus Bradbury added second-half tries for the home side, as did full-back Rich Lane, with MacGinty converting both and booting a late penalty as he finished with 20 points, and Benhard Janse van Rensburg landed the final conversion in front of a sold-out crowd.

Joe Cokanasiga, Tom Dunn, Jaco Coetzee, Tom de Glanville and Thomas du Toit crossed for Bath and there was also a penalty try – Russell added two penalties and three conversions – but a bonus point will provide scant consolation, with Russell’s poor kick gifting Bristol their final try.

* In the late Saturday game France-bound Owen Farrell delivered a masterclass as Saracens dispatched Exeter 40-22 to keep their Premiership title defence dreams alive.

Saracens finally delivered the ominous play-offs warning that they had been seeking for some time, running in five tries and edging away after a tense first 50 minutes.

Hooker James Hadfield crossed twice, with Ivan Van Zyl and Juan Martin Gonzalez adding to McFarland’s added-time effort.

Farrell booted 15 points to add to Sarries’ tries, and secure a vital victory as the Men In Black seek to time their run perfectly in the quest for a seventh Premiership crown.

* On Friday, flyhalf Jarrod Evans missed a late conversion with virtually the last kick of the game as Harlequins went down to a narrow 19-20 loss to Leicester at a sold-out Stoop.

Leicester suffered two heavy defeats in the Champions Cup but the four-point haul keeps them in contention for a play-off spot as the league heads for an extended break with the Six Nations kicking off next weekend.

Jasper Wiese and Mike Brown scored Leicester’s tries, with Handre Pollard kicking two penalties and two conversions.

Nick David, Tyrone Green and Jack Walker scored tries for Harlequins with Jarrod Evans adding two conversions, but missing the vital one from Green’s score.

Friday and Saturday’s scores and scorers

Harlequins 19-20 Leicester Tigers

The scorers

For Harlequins
Tries: David, Walker, Green
Cons: J Evans 2

For Leicester Tigers
Tries: Wiese, Brown
Cons: Pollard 2
Pens: Pollard 2

Teams

Harlequins: 15 Tyrone Green, 14 Nick David, 13 Will Joseph, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Louis Lynagh, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Max Green, 8 James Chisholm, 7 Will Evans, 6 George Hammond, 5 Irne Herbst, 4 Joe Launchbury (captain), 3 Will Collier, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Fin Baxter.
Replacements: 16 Sam Riley, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Arthur Clark, 20 Archie White, 21 Lewis Gjaltema, 22 Will Edwards, 23 Cadan Murley.

Leicester Tigers: 15 Jamie Shillcock, 14 Mike Brown, 13 Dan Kelly, 12 Solomone Kata, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Tom Whiteley, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Hanro Liebenberg, 5 Kyle Hatherell, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Richardson, 2 Julián Montoya (captain), 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Finn Theobold-Thomas, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Tim Hoyt, 19 Sam Carter, 20 Matt Rogerson, 21 Finn Carnduff, 22 Ben Youngs, 23 Matt Scott.

Referee: Tom Foley
Assistant referees: Craig Maxwell-Keys, Peter Allan
TMO: Andrew Jackson

Northampton Saints 38-13 Newcastle Falcons

The scorers

For Northampton Saints
Tries: Lawes, Matavesi, James, Sleightholme, Augustus, Penalty try
Cons: Savala 3, a penalty try does not require a conversion

For Newcastle Falcons
Try: Radwan
Con: Johnson
Pens: Johnson 2

Yellow cards: Freddie Lockwood (Newcastle Falcons, 22), Rory Jennings (Newcastle Falcons, 80)

Teams

Northampton: 15 Rory Hutchinson, 14 Gabriel Hamer-Webb, 13 Burger Odendaal, 12 Tom Litchfield, 11 Ollie Sleightholme, 10 Charlie Savala, 9 Tom James, 8 Sam Graham, 7 Lewis Ludlam (captain), 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Chunya Munga, 4 Temo Mayanavanua, 3 Trevor Davison, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Alex Waller.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Smith, 17 Tarek Haffar, 18 Elliot Millar Mills, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Juarno Augustus, 21 Angus Scott-Young, 22 Callum Braley, 23 Joel Matavesi.

Newcastle: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Cameron Hutchison, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Louie Johnson, 9 Hugh O’Sullivan, 8 Callum Chick (captain), 7 Guy Pepper, 6 Sam Cross, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 4 John Hawkins, 3 Murray McCallum, 2 Bryan Byrne, 1 Phil Brantingham.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Tim Cardall, 20 Freddie Lockwood, 21 Sam Stuart, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Mateo Carreras.

Referee: Sara Cox
Assistant referees: Adam Leal, Jamie Leahy
TMO: Andrew Jackson

Bristol Bears 57-44 Bath

The scorers

For Bristol Bears
Tries: Capon, Batley, MacGinty, Heward, Williams, Harding, Bradbury, Lane
Cons: MacGinty 6, Janse van Rensburg
Pen: MacGinty

For Bath
Tries: Cokanasiga, Dunn, De Glanville, Coetzee, Du Toit, Penalty
Cons: Russell 3
Pens: Russell 2

Yellow cards: Jaco Coetzee (Bath, 11), Louis Schreuder (Bath, 19), Steven Luatua (Bristol Bears, 61), Noah Heward (Bristol Bears, 70)

Teams

Bristol: 15 Rich Lane, 14 Noah Heward, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 James Williams, 11 Gabriel Ibitoye, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Harry Randall, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Fitz Harding (captain), 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Joe Batley, 4 James Dun, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Will Capon, 1 Jake Woolmore.
Replacements: 16 Fred Davies, 17 Sam Grahamslaw, 18 Max Lahiff, 19 Josh Caulfield, 20 Jake Heenan, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Virimi Vakatawa, 23 Siva Naulago.

Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Cameron Redpath, 12 Will Butt, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Miles Reid, 6 GJ van Velze (captain), 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Elliott Stooke, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Arthur Cordwell, 18 Archie Griffin, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Josh Bayliss, 21 Tom Carr-Smith, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Chris Cloete.

Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant referees: Anthony Woodthorpe, John Meredith
TMO: David Rose

Saracens 40-22 Exeter Chiefs

The scorers

For Saracens
Tries: Hadfield 2, Van Zyl, Gonzalezm McFarland
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 2
DG: Farrell

For Exeter Chiefs
Tries: Woodburn, Fisilau, Tuima
Cons: Hodge 2
Pen: Hodge

Teams

Saracens: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Rotimi Segun, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Olly Hartley, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Andy Christie, 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5 Hugh Tizard, 4 Theo McFarland, 3 Christian Judge, 2 James Hadfield, 1 Logovi’i Mulipola.
Replacements: 16 Sam Crean, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Ollie Stonham, 20 Toby Knight, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Lucio Cinti, 23 Tom Parton.

Exeter: 15 Josh Hodge, 14 Ben Hammersley, 13 Zack Wimbush, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn, 10 Harvey Skinner, 9 Stu Townsend, 8 Greg Fisilau, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Lewis Pearson, 5 Dafydd Jenkins (captain), 4 Rusi Tuima, 3 Marcus Street, 2 Jack Yeandle, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Dan Frost, 17 Danny Southworth, 18 Josh Iosefa-Scott, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Ross Vintcent, 21 Tom Cairns, 22 Charlie McCaig, 23 Arthur Relton.

Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley, Gareth Holsgrove
TMO: Rowan Kitt

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