Premiership: Newcastle Falcons 7-29 Saracens

The Talen Energy Stadium
There were swathes of empty seats in evidence at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia
Aviva Premiership
Newcastle (7) 7
Try: Goneva Con: Takulua
Saracens (13) 29
Tries: Wyles, Penalty Cons: Farrell (2) Pens: Farrell 5

Saracens inflicted a first defeat of the season on Newcastle as they claimed victory in the second Premiership game to be staged in the United States.

Chris Wyles scored in his homeland and Owen Farrell kicked five penalties, before a penalty try completed the win.

The game was played in front of banks of empty seats at the 18,500-capacity Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.

In March 2016, Saracens beat London Irish 26-16 in front of 14,800 at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.

Newcastle opened the season with wins over Worcester and Sale but faced a Saracens side reinforced by British and Irish Lions Farrell, Jamie George, Liam Williams plus Mako and Billy Vunipola.

Each were making their first starts of the campaign and the European champions started strongly, US international wing Wyles scoring in the corner to give them an early lead.

Saracens were pressing for a second try when George spilled a pass from Farrell and Mark Wilson picked up the loose ball to race away before sending in Vereniki Goneva for a classic breakaway score.

Two Farrell penalties gave Saracens a 13-7 lead at the break and they pinned Newcastle back in the second half.

The Falcons defended resolutely but, as the penalty count mounted, Farrell made them pay by kicking Saracens well clear.

With time running out, Goneva was penalised for a deliberate knock-on near his own line but Saracens were unable to score again.

The win lifts them above Wasps, who host Harlequins on Sunday, to second in the table.

Newcastle v Saracens
Wales wing Liam Williams was one of five British and Irish Lions to make their first starts for Saracens this season

Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards: "There was a lot of endeavour but we lacked a bit of accuracy at times and I don't think we got the rub of the green from the referee.

"You look at some of the Saracens boys who seem to be able to get away with a lot more than we do and that's just purely down to who they are and where they are."

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall: "The players have said that it felt like wet weather rugby. The humidity meant the ball was incredibly greasy, there were so many errors on both sides.

"Overall we're pleased and frustrated at the same time because I think we dominated the game and controlled field position against a very good team and I thought they defended incredibly well."

Analysis

BBC Radio 5 live rugby union reporter Chris Jones

Premiership Rugby bosses had stated their desire for the game to be a sell-out, so the paltry attendance and swathes of empty seats would have come as a disappointment and a concern.

Most rugby union administrators worldwide are desperate to "crack" America. While many traditional rugby territories are "capped out" financially, America is seen as an enormous untapped market. But it is easier said than done.

Scheduling the game on a Saturday - the same day as college (American) football - didn't help but it has taken football (or soccer) decades to infiltrate a sporting society saturated with American football, basketball, baseball, ice hockey and the like.

It's clear that it will take a large amount of time, effort and creativity if rugby union ever has a chance of doing the same.

Teams

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Sinoti, Harris, Matavesi, Goneva; Hodgson, Takulua; Vickers, Lawson, Welsh, Green, Robinson, Wilson, Welch (capt), Latu.

Replacements: S Socino, Mavinga, Davison, Witty, Hogg, Stuart, J Socino, Agulla.

Sin-bin: Goneva (75)

Saracens: Goode; Williams, Bosch, Barritt (capt), Wyles; Farrell, Spencer; M Vunipola, George, Figallo, Isiekwe, Itoje, Rhodes, Burger, B Vunipola.

Replacements: Tolofua, Thompson-Stringer, Longbottom, Day, Wray, Wigglesworth, Tomkins, Maitland.

Ref: JP Doyle

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