Northampton Saints 16 Newcastle Falcons 22: Tom Vickers’ review and player ratings

Kieran Brookes was sent off for piling into this ruck during the first half (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
Kieran Brookes was sent off for piling into this ruck during the first half (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
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Saints fans probably thought the worst thing about Black Friday would be the emails they were bombarded with throughout the day.

But then they witnessed the events at Franklin’s Gardens, where it really was a black night for Jim Mallinder’s men.

Jamie Elliott was one of Saints' better performers

Jamie Elliott was one of Saints' better performers

At the end of it, players, supporters and coaches will have wanted to head for a dark room to gather their thoughts.

And supporters could have been forgiven for holding their own cut-price sale, in a bid to offload their season tickets before Christmas.

Because this was far from fun.

In fact, the fun has drained from Franklin’s Gardens during the past couple of seasons.

Michael Paterson moved into the back row

Michael Paterson moved into the back row

The mood has grown grey and the atmosphere has consequently suffered.

Supporters are desperate to see their team carve an opposition outfit apart.

To revisit the sun-soaked days of a few seasons ago, when bonus-point wins were as common as cockroaches on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here.

Now, Saints are finding sides increasingly difficult to penetrate.

Tom Kessell had a tough night

Tom Kessell had a tough night

And visiting teams are finding it increasingly easy to end their barren runs in Northampton.

Credit to Newcastle, who won in Northampton for the first time since February, 2009.

They showed real character, especially during the first half, when they merited their 8-3 half-time lead, and in the second, when they fought back to win it.

Saints should also get some credit for the way they recovered with just 14 men.

Ben Foden was unable to prevent Vereniki Goneva scoring the match-winning try

Ben Foden was unable to prevent Vereniki Goneva scoring the match-winning try

Because, for a team missing so many international players to come back from 8-3 down to go 13-8 and 16-15 up with 10 minutes to go, takes some doing.

But despite that second-half spirit, the win was to elude them.

And much of that is down to what happened in a shocking first period, when Saints simply didn’t turn up.

Kieran Brookes’ red-mist moment, similar to Calum Clark’s at Worcester last week, apart from the fact Brookes connected with his opponent where Clark didn’t, was costly.

But so was the woeful showing prior to that.

Supporters are just that because they get behind their team no matter what.

The Franklin's Gardens faithful haven't had much to shout about this season

The Franklin's Gardens faithful haven't had much to shout about this season

But it is much easier for them to do that if their team come out of the blocks quickly.

Saints have really struggled to do that this season.

They had to fight back to beat the likes of Exeter and Montpellier.

They were nervy throughout against Gloucester.

And they have not really clicked at any point.

Fans used to be on their feet more than they were off them.

Now it is like super glue is applied to the seats before games because the thrill simply isn’t there.

It is not all doom and gloom.

Saints are not Bristol, and let’s not forget they won their past four matches going into this gloomy game.

But they will have to step things up significantly if they are to compete with Leicester and Leinster, who they face in a Champions Cup double-header, in the coming weeks.

The return of men such as Louis Picamoles and George North, their marquee players, should help.

But Saints were not playing especially well with them in the team, so they will have to find a way for the whole squad to step up.

With a trip to Welford Road up next, nothing less than a huge showing will be acceptable.

Saints have not won at the home of their local rivals since 2007, and not at all under Mallinder.

It would be some turnaround if they were to break that duck this time round.

They have been doubted before and produced a big reaction.

But this would up there with the biggest of them all.

How they rated...

BEN FODEN

Unfortunately for the full-back, he will remember this match for the tackle he failed to make on Vereniki Goneva, with the Fiji wing scoring the winning try... 5

JAMIE ELLIOTT

Showed real determination throughout and the tough winger made some telling tackles as well as taking some high balls well... 6

LUTHER BURRELL

Endured a sticky start, but bounced back well, desperately trying to get Saints on the front foot and even joining in with some scrums... 6

RORY HUTCHINSON

Made some big tackles but it was a tough night for the Saints backs, who struggled to find a way through the Falcons defence... 5

TOM COLLINS

Tried to use his pace to trouble Newcastle, but in a compact game, largely a battle between the forwards, it was tough... 5

STEPHEN MYLER

Found it tough during the first half, but started to get a grip of the game during the second, pulling the strings and kicking well... 6

TOM KESSELL

Has performed well in recent weeks, but this wasn’t the best night for the scrum-half, whose pass was intercepted by Goneva for the winning try... 4

ALEX WALLER

Put in a decent shift in the scrum as Saints managed to win a few penalties, but it wasn’t enough... 6

MIKE HAYWOOD

Gave it 100 per cent as always, and desperately tried to help Saints battle back during the second half... 6

KIERAN BROOKES

Will know that he should not have reacted and will not need telling that he put his team-mates in even more trouble than they were already in... 3

JAMES CRAIG

Was the man sacrificed to make up for the loss of Brookes and will have been frustrated that he didn’t get longer to try to help to turn the tide... 5

CHRISTIAN DAY

The captain-for-the-day was a key man in the revival and losing him to injury certainly didn’t help Saints... 6

MICHAEL PATERSON

Shifted into the back row from the second row and put in a decent shift for the team, as always... 6

JAMIE GIBSON

Was so impressive at Worcester, but couldn’t have the same influence here as the Falcons fronted up well... 6

BEN NUTLEY

Came in for his first start of the season and wasn’t able to be as effective as he was at Worcester last week... 6

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

PAUL HILL (for Craig 47)

Played his part in helping Saints to stay strong at the scrum, but this was not an easy game to get into... 6

CHRON STAR MAN - Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons)