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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 18:11 GMT
Sarries survive Falcons fightback
Newcastle's James Grindal runs out of room agaisnt Saracens
Newcastle found their path to the semi-finals blocked
Newcastle 31 Saracens 29
(Saracens win 60-41 on aggregate)

Saracens eased into the Parker Pen Challenge Cup semi-finals despite a narrow defeat at Newcastle on Sunday.

England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson coolly slotted over an 82nd-minute penalty to give his side an unlikely victory after they had trailed Saracens for virtually the entire match.

But their 21-point deficit from the first leg at Vicarage Road on Monday had left the Falcons with too much to do.

Match facts
Newcastle 31
Tries: Botham, Vyvyan, Peel, Thompson
Cons: J Wilkinson (4)
Pen: J Wilkinson
Saracens 29
Tries: Johnston, Cairns, Shanklin, B Russell
Cons: Goode (3)
Pen: Goode

Both sides scored some fine tries in an entertaining encounter, but Saracens deserved to earn a last-four meeting with Bath.

Ben Johnston scored the visitors' first try when he took an inside pass from stand-off Andy Goode.

But Goode's subsequent insistence on kicking away the quality possession provided by his forwards limited Saracens' attacking threat.

I'm really brassed off that we lost - we should never had let them in for those two rolling-maul tries in the last 15 minutes

Wayne Shelford
Saracens coach
That changed when the pack decided to keep the ball to themselves, with ubiquitous hooker Matt Cairns being shunted over in the 33rd minute.

Goode converted but Newcastle soon struck back, wing Liam Botham scrambling over for a try that Wilkinson improved from the touchline.

The England stand-off completed another touchline conversion two minutes after the break, following a superb team try which saw the ball recycled several times before number eight Hugh Vyvyan touched down.

Wallaby World Cup winner Tim Horan then set up Saracens' third try with a wonderful pass to winger Tom Shanklin.

To come back from 29-14 down is very good and I'm pleased with the end result, but we're still out of the competition

Rob Andrew
Newcastle director of rugby

Goode improved the score and kicked a penalty shortly after to push the visitors into a healthy eight-point lead.

The advantage was then stretched to 15, replacement Ben Russell fooling three defenders with a dummy that gave him space to gallop over, with Goode again converting.

However, the Falcons then staged their late comeback, scoring tries through Ian Peel and Matt Thompson.

Both scores were converted by Wilkinson, before the England star struck his injury-time penalty to snatch victory - but not a place in the last four.


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

Saracens: Castaignede; Shanklin, Johnston, Horan, O'Mahony; Goode, Bracken; Califano, Cairns, Marsters, Yandell, Hooper, Roques, Hill, Chesney.
Replacements: Croall, Parkes, R Russell, B Russell, Sorrell, Sparg, Haughton.

Referee: Nigel Williams (Wales)


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