Premiership: Saracens 22-17 Newcastle Falcons

Ben Spencer
Ben Spencer has represented England Saxons and England Under-20s
Aviva Premiership
Saracens (13) 22
Tries: Strettle Con: Hodgson Pens: Hodgson 2, Spencer 3
Newcastle (10) 17
Tries: Saull, Tuilagi, Welch Con: Catterick

Saracens narrowly beat Newcastle to move up to second in the Premiership.

Former Sarries flanker Andy Saull was driven over to give Falcons an early lead before David Strettle scored in the corner for the hosts following a sweeping move.

Falcons' Alex Tuilagi powered over but Charlie Hodgson's second penalty put Saracens 13-10 ahead at the break.

Captain Will Welch scored Newcastle's third try but Ben Spencer kicked three penalties to earn Saracens the victory.

With Bath losing at Exeter, Mark McCall's Saracens leapfrog their play-off rivals, but remain 12 points behind leaders Northampton.

The opening few minutes set the tone for an entertaining first half as Saull touched down from a driving maul but Tom Catterick was unable to add the extras.

Former England man Hodgson reduced the deficit with a penalty from 40 metres after Falcons were penalised for not rolling away and moments later the hosts went in front as Strettle crossed the whitewash after a superb passing move from a lineout.

Tuilagi brought the scores level as he powered through Sarries' defence after an initial break from hooker Scott Lawson but the conversion was missed by Catterick.

Hodgson slotted his second penalty on the half-hour mark to edge Saracens ahead again, but then appeared to tweak his hamstring and was replaced by Spencer.

Newcastle's impressive mauling continued after the break as Welch was driven over for Falcons' third try.

The setback seemed to spark some life into Saracens who retook the lead through two Spencer penalties, including a sweetly-struck kick from the touchline.

With Spencer beginning to dictate play with his boot, Newcastle were unable to pose much of an attacking threat, and the 22-year-old had the final say as he slotted his third penalty from three following an infringement at the breakdown to seal Sarries' 10th win of the season.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said: "That was massive for us, it wasn't really a good performance but it's very important that we got the points.

"Ben Spencer has been the most patient man at the club because he's behind many, he doesn't complain and he works unbelievably hard.

"He's seen examples of people who have waited for the chance and are now playing every week."

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards: "We should have won, that's the problem.

"We have the winning mentality but little things make a big difference in this game.

"We scored three tries to Saracens' one but our poor decision making meant that we spent the majority of the second-half in our own half. That made it very difficult to get out but I thought the boys were outstanding on the day."

Saracens: Ransom; Wyles, Bosch, Barritt, Strettle; Hodgson, De Kock; Gill, George, Du Plessis, Itoje, Hargreaves (capt), De Jager, Burger, Wray.

Replacements: Sharman, Barrington, Figallo, Hamilton, Hankin, Spencer, Mordt, Streather.

Newcastle Falcons: Tait; Sinoti, Powell, Socino, Tuilagi; Catterick, Blair; Vickers, Lawson, Orlandi, Thompson, Barrow, Welch (capt), Saull, Wilson.

Replacements: Hawkins, Rogers, Irving, Green, York, Tipuna, Clegg, Penny.

Att: 7,473

Ref: Andrew Small (RFU).