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Monday, 13 January, 2003, 22:23 GMT
Saracens down Falcons
Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson was unable to prevent Falcons' collapse
Saracens 31-10 Newcastle

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson returned after a seven-week absence but could not save Newcastle from defeat by Saracens in the Parker Pen Challenge Cup quarter-final first leg.

Newcastle led 10-6 at half-time but were sunk by three second-half tries from Saracens as the Falcons were twice reduced to 14 men.

I was very aware of the contact situation after being out but it's come through okay and that's a good sign

Jonny Wilkinson

French prop Christian Califano, replacement forward Craig Yandell and England flanker Richard Hill all went over as Wilkinson's opposite number Andy Goode kicked 16 points.

Newcastle locks Craig Hamilton and Stuart Grimes were both sin-binned in the second half by referee Joel Dume, who also yellow-carded Saracens' prop Johnny Marsters.

Match facts:
Saracens 31
Tries: Califano, Yandell, Hill
Cons: Goode (2)
Pens: Goode (3)
Drop goals: Goode
Newcastle 10
Tries: Dowson
Cons: Wilkinson
Pens: Wilkinson

In the first half, with Wilkinson back at the helm, Newcastle looked a different side to the one struggling at the bottom of the Zurich Premiership.

The England star, playing his first match since damaging his shoulder in the autumn Test win over South Africa, opened his account in the 15th minute to cancel out Goode's first effort.

Rob Andrew's team then pulled clear midway through the period when flanker Phil Dowson burst through Saracens' defence to touch down.

The whole second half was a mess

Newcastle coach Rob Andrew

Wilkinson converted from the right touch line for a 10-3 lead before Goode cut the deficit to four points at the break.

But in the second half Newcastle's current league predicament came back to haunt them as Saracens scored 25 unanswered points.

First Wilkinson missed a penalty attempt from his own half before Saracens turned the screw.

They took the lead after Califano rounded off a flowing move out wide, and edged further ahead with a drop goal and a penalty from Goode.

The fly-half also converted Yandell's 76th-minute try before Hill carved open Newcastle for a third touchdown.

The two sides meet in the second leg at Kingston Park on Saturday.


Saracens: Winnan, Shanklin, Sorrell, Horan, O'Mahony, Goode, Bracken, Califano, Ross, Marsters, Benazzi, Hooper, Chesney, Hill, B Russell. Replacements: Croall, Cairns, Yandell, Roques, Johnston, Sparg, Haughton.

Newcastle: Shaw, Botham, Noon, M. Wilkinson, Stephenson, J. Wilkinson, Grindal, Peel, Makin, Hurter, Grimes, Hamilton, Dunbar, Dowson, Vyvyan. Replacements: Charlton, Godman, Isaacson, Ward, Otuvaka, Taione, Thompson.

Referee: Joel Dume (France)

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 ON THIS STORY
BBC Five Live's Alastair Eykyn
"Saracens should go on to finish the job"

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