Premiership: Newcastle Falcons 25-22 Northampton Saints

Toby Flood kicked a 20-point haul for the hosts in front of their record home crowd at St James' Park
Toby Flood kicked a 20-point haul for the hosts in front of their record home crowd at St James' Park
Aviva Premiership
Newcastle (16) 25
Tries: Goneva Cons: Flood Pens: Flood 6
Northampton Saints (12) 22
Tries: Ribbans, Horne, Tuitavake Cons: Myler 2 Pens: Myler

Newcastle hung on for a narrow Premiership victory over Northampton Saints which maintains their hopes of finishing in the top four.

In front of a record home gate of 30,174 at St James' Park, almost three times their previous highest, their one try came from winger Niki Goneva.

Saints scored three tries through flanker David Ribbans, centre Rob Horne and winger Nafi Tuitavake.

But ex-England stand-off Toby Flood's boot was the key with a 20-point haul.

On the ground where he once performed as a Newcastle United ballboy, Flood added the conversion to Goneva's first-half try.

He also landed six penalties, three in each half, capped by what proved the 67th-minute winner.

Newcastle climb a place to third, above Wasps, courtesy of having won more games, ahead of the Coventry side's meeting with Leicester on Sunday.

The Falcons now have six days to recover before their European Challenge Cup quarter-final back at their regular Kingston Park home on Good Friday (30 March, 20:00 BST).

Rugby stars in black and white stripes

Newcastle thought they had made a sensational start, only for Sinoti Sinoti's first-minute try to be ruled out after TV replays highlighted a knock-on in the build-up.

Instead, it was Saints who had the first try on the board on 10 minutes following an attack in which recalled Wales and Lions wing George North figured twice before Ribbans forced his way over.

But Goneva then emerged from a ruck on the Northampton 22 to stroll in for a 20th minute try, celebrating in his black-and-white-striped shirt with a fitting Alan Shearer-style salute to the crowd.

Northampton flanker David Ribbans had the honour of scoring the first try in a rugby union club game at St James' Park
Northampton flanker David Ribbans had the honour of scoring the first try in a rugby union club game at St James' Park

Goneva then spilled a Stephen Myler bomb, which Horne kicked on to score. But the third of Flood's six penalties edged the Falcons 16-12 clear at the break - and he quickly added his fourth just after the restart.

Northampton levelled at 19-19 on 52 minutes with a try from Tuitavake, Myler adding a second conversion.

Flood and opposite number Myler then swapped penalties but, although Flood hit the post with his next effort, he finally nailed what proved to be the winning kick from 45 metres.

Newcastle boss Dean Richards:

"St James' Park is a fantastic stadium, which we've known since the World Cup here in 2015. We were just itching to get here and play and, with a crowd of 30,000, the atmosphere was absolutely brilliant.

"It was a proper game of rugby as well and we got over the line in the end. We were a little frustrated by our own inaccuracy but we deserved to nick it.

"It could have gone either way but full credit to our guys. They were disciplined throughout which I don't think Northampton were and, with that, probably went their chance to win.

"Momentum is important as we head to the end of the season. We are the underdogs in just about every tournament but we're having fun."

Northampton director of rugby Alan Gaffney:

"Our discipline let us down again. It's been a common theme. We gave Toby Flood seven penalty kicks at goal and he got six of them - that's a result of schoolboy errors.

"It's very frustrating to score three tries to one and lose. We just didn't allow ourselves to spend enough time in their half as each time we got up there we conceded a penalty.

"Our defence was pretty good apart from the Goneva try, which was a bad error, but we defended pretty well across the board.

"The players loved playing at a stadium like this. It's a great innovation by Newcastle to put the game on here and they were rewarded with a pretty good crowd."

Newcastle: Hammersley; Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti; Flood, Young; Lockwood, Cooper, Davison; Green, Robinson; Olmstead, Welch (c), Latu.

Replacements: Lawson, Vickers, Wilson, Witty, Hogg, Stuart, Hodgson, Mermoz.

Northampton: Tuala; Tuitavake, Horne, Francis, North; Myler, Groom; Ma'afu, Haywood, Brookes; Ratuniyawara, Day (c); Ribbans, Gibson, Nutley.

Replacements: Marshall, Van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Paterson, Eadie, Reinach, Mallinder, Foden.

Attendance: 30,174.

Referee: J P Doyle.

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