The Aviva Premiership headed Stateside once again in 2017, with the Falcons as the ‘home’ team on Saturday. Disappointment was abound though for the men from Kingston Park, as Saracens overpower Newcastle in Philadelphia with England and Lions reinforcements returning. Owen Farrell starred in a 7-29 victory in the second ever visit to North America.
Wyles Opens Preceding In Pennsylvania
Somewhat romantically, former American captain Chris Wyles began proceedings by crossing the whitewash on the seventh minute. In a passage of play that seemed all too easy, Liam Williams made his first major contribution for his new club. Williams supplied Wyles with the final pass that sent the American over for his try.
Newcastle replied with a Vereniki Goneva score, only for Owen Farrell to kick two penalties for a 7-13 half-time lead.
A rather sweaty affair saw few tries, but plenty of points for the successful Saracens. Newcastle’s handling errors and their poor discipline allowed Farrell to kick six penalties to see his side clear. Goneva’s 75th minute yellow card and penalty try for a deliberate knock down sealed the victory for Farrell and co.
Billy Returns, As Does Farrell’s Golden Boot
The return of Billy Vunipola will have delighted fans and coaching staff of both Saracens and England. Vunipola missed out on the summer British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand due to a shoulder injury. The Tongan-born number eight’s carrying, passing and reception of high balls were all top class. The fact he played the full 80 minutes on his return impresses even further.
With both Billy and brother Mako involved, the Falcons had a job on their hands keeping Saracens from providing Farrell with front foot ball.
Until Goneva’s card, all that separated the two sides from a single try apiece was Farrell’s kicking. His 17 point haul at 100% success rate can’t be described as anything other than world class. He added plenty, to a side who were more efficient in all factors in this victory.
Newcastle will likely finish this season higher than in recent seasons; such is their inherent quality, so there is no shame in losing to European juggernauts, Saracens. Next week it is Bath, so they need to keep their heads held high.
Contributing Factor: Philly Turns Up the Radiator
In a strange twist, the fitness of both sides will have been tested by the 27 degree ‘warmer than usual’ weather. Unfamiliar temperature, for those visiting from a mild English autumn. So with four players aged 35 in the Newcastle side, Saracens were bound to have the advantage of their younger bodies.
Conditioning is a factor of all professional rugby competitions. In the Aviva Premiership, having fighting fit players is one aspect that every side must rely on. The returning Vunipola brothers and Farrell all would have felt a little worse for wear after the first run-out, but it might be the best thing long-term.
Newcastle Falcons 7 – Try: Vereniki Goneva; Conversion: Sonatane Takulua
Saracens 29 – Tries: Chris Wyles, Penalty Try; Con: Owen Farrell; Penalties: Farrell (5)
Main Photo Credit: