Falcons end away drought
Late try from Noon seals thrilling victory
By Graeme Mair. Last Updated: 31/12/07 11:06am
Noon: Match-winning try
Jamie Noon's 78th-minute try gave Newcastle Falcons their first away win in the Guinness Premiership for 13 months with a 22-19 success against Saracens at Vicarage Road.
Matthew Tait and Toby Flood both touched down as the Falcons dominated the first-half to lead 12-3 at the break.
Saracens stormed back after the interval and tries from Neil de Kock and Hugh Vyvyan put them 19-15 in front entering the final five minutes.
But Noon dived over two minutes from time to end Newcastle's long wait for a league victory away from Kingston Park.
Newcastle showed adventure from the kick-off and were rewarded in the third minute when Tait produced a scorching turn of speed for the opening try.
Flood's delayed pass on the half-way line allowed full-back Tait to enter the line on a straight angle and then veer to his left and outpace opposite number Brent Russell in a race to the corner.
Wilkinson landed the touchline conversion for an early 7-0 lead, although that was soon cut by three points when Gordon Ross slotted a penalty to get his side on the board after the Falcons pack was caught off-side.
The visitors had the opportunity to extend their supremacy, but Wilkinson was twice off-target with long-range penalty attempts as a spate of infringements stopped the flow.
Referee Sean Davey finally lost patience in the 21st minute and sent Saracens hooker Fabio Ongaro to the sin-bin for collapsing a maul.
And Newcastle immediately exploited their numerical superiority with a second try - Flood finishing from close range after blindside flanker Brent Wilson had offloaded in the tackle.
Wilkinson was again wide with his conversion attempt, but then exchanged penalties with Ross at the end of the first half to take Newcastle to the break 15-6 ahead.
Newcastle's dominance of the opening period prompted Saracens director of rugby Alan Gaffney to bring on Kiwi stand-off Glen Jackson in place of Ross for the second half.
The change worked as Jackson orchestrated a concerted period of dominance that culminated in a 49th-minute penalty that brought his side back within a converted try.
The momentum was now with the hosts, and it took a superb last-ditch tackle from Tait to prevent winger Rodd Penney scoring in the 59th minute.
Penney slid for the line whilst being tackled by both Wilkinson and Tait and the video referee was called upon to confirm that Tait had managed to get his legs between ball and turf to prevent the grounding.
But it only delayed the inevitable as three minutes later scrum-half de Kock dived over from close range, and this time the video referee ruled that there was no reason for the try not to be awarded, despite replays being less than conclusive.
De Kock's score reduced Saracens' deficit to 15-14 but Jackson wasted the opportunity to put his side in front by pulling the conversion wide.
They continued to press and looked to have won it when ex-Falcons skipper Vyvyan powered over in the 74th minute to give his side the lead for the first time in the match.
However, Newcastle were not to be denied and got the decisive score two minutes from time when Noon took Wilkinson's pass in full stride and crashed through David Seymour's tackle to the line.
Wilkinson iced the result by adding the conversion to extend his side's margin of victory to three points.