Aviva Premiership: Leaders Northampton beat Newcastle 22-16 at Kingston Park
Last Updated: 23/02/14 8:58pm
Two first-half tries from full-back James Wilson set league leaders Northampton on the road to victory in their Aviva Premiership clash at struggling Newcastle.
Despite being shorn of their international stars, Saints still looked a different class as they dealt with the blustery wind and heavy Kingston Park pitch and ran out 22-16 winners.
Second-from-bottom Newcastle snatched a late losing bonus point with a Noah Cato try two minutes from time.
Wilson's double strike saw the Saints lead 19-6 at half-time, by which time Newcastle had hardly threatened.
The home side rarely had the ball and it came as a surprise that Northampton could only add a Stephen Myler penalty after the break, while conceding Cato's late try.
Northampton's opening try in the seventh minute came from a quick free kick by scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i, and Wilson cruised in at the corner for 5-0 with the Newcastle defence nowhere to be seen.
Rory Clegg cut the deficit to 5-3 with a 10th-minute penalty but most of the threat was coming from Northampton and nothing illustrated that better than Tom Stephenson's weaving 16th-minute run-in under the posts with the Falcons defence again flat-footed. Myler had an easy conversion for 12-3.
Clegg chipped away with another penalty after good work by prop Gary Strain over the ball at the tackle in the 20th minute.
However, when Mike Blair sent Cato down the right to force another penalty, Clegg was way off target with his kick.
Wilson's second try came from terrific passing under pressure from Fotuali'i and Myler, and George Pisi could have scored himself but handed it in on to Wilson.
Myler's conversion was heading wide until the wind blew it inside the post for 19-6.
Newcastle made a much better effort of the second half and spurned two kickable penalties to go for the line-out drive, but Northampton's defence proved as good as their attack and both drives fizzled out.
Newcastle were handed a penalty for offside and Clegg made it 19-9 in the 57th minute.
Myler restored the 13-point gap with a 62nd-minute penalty, awarded for not releasing, and with both sides running their benches in the second half it was not until the 78th minute there was any real action.
It still came as a surprise when Cato snapped up a loose pass and raced in for a try which Joel Hodgson converted for Newcastle to snatch their point.
Aviva Premiership 2013/14 Round 15
Jim Mallinder hailed Northampton's 22-16 win at Newcastle which kept his side at the top of the Aviva Premiership.
Mark McCall praised Joel Tomkins after Saracens beat Exeter 23-10 in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.
Saracens maintained the pressure on Aviva Premiership leaders Northampton with a 23-10 win over Exeter.