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Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Sunday, 27 March 2011 17:21 UK

Saracens 24-9 Newcastle Falcons

Saracens (11) 24
Tries: Short, Saunders Cons: Farrell Pens: Goode, Farrell 3
Newcastle (3) 9
Pens: Gopperth 3

Saracens' Andy Saull is tackled
Saracens' Andy Saull is tacked by James Fitzpatrick of Newcastle during his side's 24-9 win at Vicarage Road

Saracens closed the gap on Premiership leaders Leicester to three points with a hard-fought win over Newcastle.

Wing James Short crossed to give Sarries the perfect start, and they led 11-3 at the break as Alex Goode and Owen Farrell both kicked penalties.

Jimmy Gopperth had kicked Newcastle's points and added two more penalties to reduce the Falcons' arrears to 11-9.

But Saracens ground their way to victory with two more Farrell penalties and a converted Jared Saunders try.

Saracens made hard work of it against the Premiership's second-from-bottom side, but despite a gutsy effort the Falcons were ultimately made to make the long journey home empty handed.

Newcastle began badly by putting the kick-off straight out and collapsing the resulting scrum, but after it went down for a second time they were let off the hook when Goode fired the penalty wide.

The reprieve did not last long though as Short scored wide on the left after Goode's break was followed by a neat pass inside to Chris Wyles.

Gopperth missed with his first chance to get Newcastle on the board, and instead Goode stretched Sarries' lead when he slotted over a penalty awarded for offside.

That was cancelled out by a Gopperth penalty for offside, but Farrell ensured Saracens would have an eight-point lead at the break by landing a 40-metre effort on the stroke of half time.

Newcastle made a strong start to the second half and closed to within two points as Gopperth slotted over two more penalties.

Farrell widened that margin again with a successful penalty from the half-way line, before Saracens made the most of Ally Hogg being sin-binned for ball killing as Farrell steered home another penalty and converted Saunders' late try to move them out of sight.

Saracens rugby director Mark McCall:
"That was very frustrating, a poor spectacle and I'm disappointed.

"We put more than 50 points on Newcastle in this fixture last season so give them credit for improvement with a number of young players on board.

"But we'll need to address the way we played during the week before taking on Bath at home next Sunday."

Newcastle boss Alan Tait:
"At 11-9 midway through the second half we were in with a shout. But if we are to go forward as a club we need to learn from what happened afterwards when we finished up without even a losing bonus point.

"Some of the boys gave their all. I asked them to make an impact and they did which is why, despite losing, I see reasons to be cheerful.

"We got no decisions at the scrum which is disappointing, but even more disappointing was Hogg's yellow card.

"He shook my hand afterwards, apologising, but I told him he owed the boys one. It was a really stupid act to grab the scrum-half; it was needless and proved so costly at a crucial stage in the game reducing us to 14 men for a very costly period."

Saracens: Goode, Strettle, Wyles, Barrett, Short, Farrell, de Kock, Stevens, Brits, Nieto, Borthwick, Smith, Melck, Saull, Joubert.

Replacements: Cato for Short (64), Wigglesworth for de Kock (15), Saunders for Stevens (62), George for Brits (70), Du Plessis for Nieto (53), Vyvyan for Smith (53), K. Brown for Melck (41). Not Used: Powell.

Newcastle: Catterick, A. Tait, Eves, Fitzpatrick, Sheriffe, Gopperth, Pilgrim, Golding, Thompson, Hall, Hudson, van der Heijden, Swinson, Welch, Hogg.

Replacements: Tu'ipulotu for Fitzpatrick (55), Young for Pilgrim (55), Shiels for Golding (66), Vickers for Thompson (49), Brookes for Hall (47), M. Wilson for van der Heijden (66), Gray for Hogg (70). Not Used: Hodgson.

Sin Bin: Hogg (60).

Att: 7,135.

Ref: Martin Fox (RFU).

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see also
Leicester 14-15 Saracens
05 Mar 11 |  English
Gloucester 34-7 Newcastle
20 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Newcastle seal deal for Sheriffe
08 Feb 11 |  Newcastle
Newcastle 13-15 Saracens
22 Oct 10 |  English

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