Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview
Fixture: Newcastle Falcons v Northampton Saints
Competition: Gallagher Premiership
Venue: Kingston Park, Newcastle upon Tyne
Date and kick-off time: Saturday, January 8, 2022, 3pm
Weather forecast: 7c, light rain
Live television coverage: None
Referee: Matthew Carley
Newcastle Falcons: Brown; Penny, Orlando, Burrell, Carreras; Hodgson, Schreuder; Cooper, McGuigan, Davison; Peterson, Robinson; van der Walt, Welch (c), Chick.
Replacements: Blamire, Brocklebank, Tampin, Fearns, Graham, Stuart, Connon, Wacokecoke.
Saints: Furbank; Skosan, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Collins; Biggar, Mitchell; Waller, Matavesi, Hill; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Wood, Ludlam (c), Harrison.
Replacements: Fish, Iyogun, Painter, Coles, Wilkins, James, Litchfield, Freeman.
Not considered for Saints selection: Juarno Augustus, Nick Auterac, Callum Burns, Piers Francis, Mike Haywood, Oisín Heffernan, Courtney Lawes, Alex Moon, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Matt Proctor, Kayde Sylvester.
Most recent meeting: Monday, May 17, 2021: Newcastle Falcons 18 Saints 10 (Gallagher Premiership)
Tom's preview: Last season, Kingston Park proved to be the final stop on Saints' top-four train.
Chris Boyd conceded defeat in the play-off race after seeing his side slip to an 18-10 loss against Newcastle Falcons.
It was a really tough Monday in the toon for Saints as they struggled to get anything going and eventually failed to even pick up a losing bonus point.
That result, added to the hugely disappointing home defeat against Gloucester nine days earlier, ensured Saints' title hopes went up in smoke.
Meanwhile, Harlequins continued to motor on, eventually securing fourth spot and going on to claim the Premiership crown in stunning fashion.
And how Saints need to avoid a repeat of that Falcons failure when they travel north again this weekend.
Because while a defeat would not be fatal as it was last May, it would be another huge obstacle as Saints look to find some form and stay in touch with the teams ahead of them.
They now face three successive away games in the Gallagher Premiership.
And they know that their margin for error is starting to decrease after they were unable to pick up any points from recent clashes with Harlequins and Saracens.
Saints had their moments in both of those matches, but they have now scored just 12 points in their past 145 minutes of rugby.
While Quins and Saracens showed how to manage a game, Saints have been lacking that composure and consistency in performance.
And they really need to find those qualities if they are to achieve their aims for the rest of this campaign.
They have turned things around in the second half of the season before under Chris Boyd, enjoying a resurgence during the boss's first season in charge when they finished fourth.
And with the halfway point of the Premiership campaign set to be reached this weekend, they can still dream of a repeat.
But trips to Newcastle, an incredibly proud side with plenty of quality, are never easy.
The Falcons are reeling from failing to score a single point in their defeat at Leicester Tigers last weekend and you can bet they will deliver a stirring response on Saturday.
Saints will be charged with not only doing the same, but bagging the win that would lift spirits and help to potentially life them back up the table.
So while this match may not be win or bust as it was in May, the importance of it certainly can't be understated.
Tom's prediction: Saints really need to kick-start their stuttering season here, and I'm backing them to grit their teeth and get the job done. Newcastle Falcons 25 Saints 28.