Northampton thrash Newcastle to claim play-off spot
Tommy Freeman showcased his burgeoning talent by scoring a hat-trick in Northampton’s 65-26 thumping of Newcastle, which qualified the hosts for the Gallagher Premiership play-offs.
The Saints scored 10 tries in total during an extremely open contest at Franklin’s Gardens as they reached the semi-finals for the first time in three years and they have a clash at old rivals Leicester to look forward to next week.
This was not how Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards would have wanted to end a decade in charge, however, with the visitors also having Sean Robinson sent off.
Dan Biggar kicked an early penalty for Northampton, who then scored their first try in the ninth minute when a loose pass by Matias Orlando fell for Sam Matavesi, who kicked ahead before winning the race to score.
A slick move involving Biggar and Fraser Dingwall then led to Alex Coles being put in the clear before Matavesi broke off a driving maul to score his second, with Biggar’s conversion taking the score to 22-0 after just 24 minutes.
Newcastle then finally fired a shot themselves when their captain, Callum Chick, burst onto Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti’s pass to charge into space before stepping George Furbank for a fine individual score.
Northampton soon had their bonus point in the bag, however, when Api Ratuniyarawa went on a charge down the left before passing inside to Coles, who quickly moved the ball on to give Alex Mitchell an easy finish.
The Falcons had the first score of the second half when they were awarded a penalty try for Mitchell tackling George McGuigan into touch from an offside position at a driving maul.
It also cost Mitchell a yellow card and Newcastle threatened an improbable comeback while the hosts were down to 14 men as Jamie Blamire went over off a driving maul before Joel Hodgson’s long pass allowed Adam Radwan to score in the corner.
This reduced the gap to 36-26, but Rory Hutchinson soon settled Northampton by going over in the corner, with Robinson seeing red for a head-on-head collision with Biggar in the build-up.
Freeman then took centre stage, first racing in from halfway after being put into space by Furbank before almost effortlessly gathering his own kick ahead down the right to complete his hat-trick with 12 minutes left.
There was still time for Northampton to score two more tries, as Courtnall Skosan chased down Juarno Augustus’ hack clear before Ludlam, who was making his 100th appearance for the hosts, ran in off the final play.
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