Newcastle Falcons 46 Northampton Saints 31: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Newcastle got stuck into Saints at Kingston Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Newcastle got stuck into Saints at Kingston Park (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

If there was a fast forward button for this season, Saints supporters probably would have pressed it long ago.

But the only button that is now being pressed is one of the panic variety.

Ken Pisi scored for Saints

Ken Pisi scored for Saints

After Sunday's shambolic second half at Kingston Park, Saints are now really struggling to finish in the Aviva Premiership top six.

They bowed out of the Champions Cup at the group stage, having been eviscerated by Castres and Leinster along the way.

And they couldn't make it past the pool in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, with Saracens sticking the knife in by finishing top of the table to make the semi-finals.

After all that, the message was the clichéd 'focus on the league'.

Lee Dickson came off the bench during the second half

Lee Dickson came off the bench during the second half

Saints were able to pour all of their efforts into the Premiership.

But two games later, they are left to reflect on two defeats and the concession of an eye-watering 11 tries.

A team that had at least been solid in defence in domestic action early in the season has now come apart at the seams.

Increased attacking intent, displayed by the fact Saints have scored seven times in the past two matches, has been married up with disastrous defending.

Ben Foden skippered Saints

Ben Foden skippered Saints

They are not happy bedfellows.

Because while Saints fizzed at times against the Newcastle Falcons, they went flat after scoring their third try.

The Falcons flew back into the game with a score before the break and they were as quick out of the blocks as Usain Bolt in the second half.

They ripped Saints to shreds in a devastating spell and continued to rub salt in the wounds, racking up five second-half scores, making it seven in total.

That tally is unacceptable against the best of sides, never mind a team sitting ninth in the table going into the game.

Yes, Newcastle are better than that position suggests, especially at home.

And yes, they had already beaten Saints in the league this season, taking advantage of a Kieran Brookes red card to win 22-16 at Franklin's Gardens in November.

But no one could have expected this kind of collapse.

It was like an England batting effort of years gone by.

If it was a Spanish football match, the white handkerchiefs would have been waving on the 50-minute mark.

Because, put simply, Newcastle ran riot.

Saints missed tackle after tackle and were continually exposed on the counter-attack.

What they had done to Newcastle early in the game, was done to them, with even more ruthless efficiency in the formative stages of the second period.

It was almost the reverse Bath because while Saints began slowly at The Rec and got better, here they started fast and finish with red faces.

The Falcons continued to stamp on the throat of the opposition, making for ugly viewing at times.

And it has to be said, this second-half showing felt worse than the drubbing in Dublin in December.

Because while Saints were again without their international stars, they were not facing a host of world class players.

They were up against a hard-working team with plenty of ability, but not players who often grace the Test arena.

And there was still enough talent in the Saints team to get the job done, as seemed to be the case when they were running all over Newcastle in the first half.

But the fact they didn't was a worry for the coaches.

Because whatever was said at half-time simply didn't sink in.

The Falcons turned the tide in dramatic fashion, exposing the flaws in this Saints squad.

And now cracks will again have to be plastered over, with Mallinder's men needing to win their next two matches, at home to Worcester and away to Sale, before a two-week break.

After that comes a daunting five-game run-in against sides currently ensconced in the top six.

It is a worrying situation and one that now piles huge pressure on Saints, for whom the prospect of Challenge Cup rugby next season is particularly unsavoury but increasingly likely.

Having won just three away league games this season - against three of the current bottom four - they will need to pick up points on the road.

But if they continue to play like they did during the second half at Newcastle, there will be no chance of that.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

Combined well with Ken Pisi to tee up Harry Mallinder and also chased the high ball well, but was part of a poor defensive performance... 5

KEN PISI

Started superbly, scoring a try and then setting up Harry Mallinder for a sparkling score, but he struggled defensively in the second half... 5

NAFI TUITAVAKE

Kept Newcastle on their toes with some trademark tricky runs, but it was a different story in defence... 5

HARRY MALLINDER

Wrote his name on the scoresheet as he finished off a fine move, but the Falcons took the Saints centres on and found the gaps they wanted... 5

BEN FODEN

Was often found trying to provide a last line of defence in a Saints team that was getting ripped apart and though he didn't lack effort, he couldn't stop Falcons... 5

STEPHEN MYLER

Kicked superbly from the tee once again, but had to do far more defensive work than he would have expected... 5

NIC GROOM

Wasn't particularly effective with his kicking game and the fact his team were on the back foot early in the second half made it tough... 4

ALEX WALLER

Tried to put himself about, but Saints didn't have it all their own way in the scrum and found the opposition pack difficult to handle during the second half... 5

MIKE HAYWOOD

Popped up to score Saints' bonus-point try and once again he gave everything he had to the cause... 6

KIERAN BROOKES

Tried to carry hard, knocking a couple of his former team's players over in the process, but they coped with him well in the end... 4

API RATUNIYARAWA

Offloaded superbly for Jamie Gibson's score and gave Saints some grunt in attack, but Falcons eventually found a way to stop him... 6

CHRISTIAN DAY

Can never be accused of letting the team down and he showed his disappointment as things crumbled around him... 5

JAMIE GIBSON

Worked so hard once again, throwing himself about and chasing every ball, while also scoring his third try in as many matches... 6

CALUM CLARK

Saints will be hoping to get more miles out of him before he heads off to Saracens this summer, but this was not an easy afternoon... 4

TEIMANA HARRISON

Is usually so destructive at No.8, but wasn't able to do his usual damage here as Falcons took control... 5

CHRON STAR MAN - Sonatane Takulua (Newcastle)