Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview
Fixture: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints
Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 19)
Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle
Date and kick-off time: Monday, May 17, 2021, 7.30pm
Weather forecast: 11c, light rain
Live television coverage: BT Sport 1
Referee: Matthew Carley
Newcastle Falcons: Penny; Radwan, Orlando, Burrell, Wacokecoke; Connon, Shreuder; Brocklebank, McGuigan, Davison; Peterson, Robinson; Welsh, Wilson (c), Chick.
Replacements: Blamire, Cooper, Tampin, van der Walt, Fearns, Stuart,
Saints: Furbank; Sleightholme, Proctor, Hutchinson, Freeman; Grayson, James; Waller (cc), Matavesi, Hill; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Wood, Ludlam (cc), Harrison.
Replacements: Haywood, Auterac, Painter, Coles, Adendorff, Taylor, Dingwall, Collins.
Outs: Saints: Piers Francis (quadricep), Owen Franks (foot), Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Achilles), Nick Isiekwe (pectoral), Courtney Lawes (pectoral), Alex Mitchell (ankle).
Most recent meeting: Friday, April 26, 2019: Newcastle Falcons 17 Saints 31 (Gallagher Premiership)
Tom's preview: It’s fair to say Newcastle have been something of a bogey team for Saints in recent years.
But, when Chris Boyd’s side have really needed to beat them - they have done just that.
Saints may have only won three of their past nine matches against Newcastle, but those victories have been important ones.
Most notably, the black, green and gold prevailed in their most recent meeting with Dean Richards’ side, back in April 2019.
On that occasion, Saints headed north knowing they really needed a win to keep their Gallagher Premiership top-four hopes alive.
And here we are again.
Saints travel to Kingston Park on Monday knowing there is simply no margin for error.
Boyd’s boys suffered a surprising and largely shocking 31-7 home defeat to Gloucester last Saturday.
Following this weekend's results, it has left them 11 points adrift of the play-off places with just four games to go.
And if they are to somehow catch fourth-placed Harlequins in the closing weeks of the campaign, Saints will have to win at Newcastle on Monday.
“It’s impossible to ignore the league table,” said scrum-half Henry Taylor, who scored Saints’ only try against Gloucester last weekend.
“It’s absolute knock-out rugby for us now and we knew that even before the Gloucester game.
“If we can do as much as we can do and get five points from the next few games, we’ve done our bit.”
Saints will finally play in front of some fans on Monday, albeit not their own.
Newcastle are ready to welcome 1,750 supporters to Kingston Park following the easing of restrictions.
And Taylor said: “That is bringing some energy to the group.
“It’s going to be our first away trip - we haven’t stayed away overnight for ages - and it’s Monday night lights with a crowd.
“We need to get our heads right and we need to bring our own atmosphere within our group.”
Saints will welcome 4,000 fans to Franklin’s Gardens for their final two home games, against Wasps and Exeter Chiefs.
And they would love to do so knowing that there was still the possibility of a top-four place in the air.
“We’re going to throw absolutely everything we’ve got at this game on Monday,” Taylor said.
“I know the boys, coming off the back of last weekend, are just buzzing to get back on the pitch and sort it out.
“It’s going to be all hands on deck and boys are buzzing to get to it.”
Tom's prediction: It's never an easy game at Newcastle, and this will be no different. Saints simply have to win, ideally with a bonus point, but the full five points may be a bit of a stretch. Newcastle 25 Saints 26.