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Newcastle 7-19 Saracens: Falcons beaten in Philadelphia

by 16/09/2017 19:15:00 0 comments 1 Views

By Nik Simon For The Mail On Sunday

Published: 19:04 EDT, 16 September 2017 | Updated: 19:15 EDT, 16 September 2017

America proved to be the land of missed opportunity for the Premiership roadshow on Saturday night.

Saracens returned to winning ways with a flat victory over Newcastle as 6,271 – what seemed to be a generous official figure – turned out at the 18,500-seat stadium in Philadelphia.

The occasion itself will not live long in the memory of the Americans.

Saracens returned to winning ways in front of an official crowd figure of 6,271 on Saturday
Saracens returned to winning ways in front of an official crowd figure of 6,271 on Saturday

Saracens returned to winning ways in front of an official crowd figure of 6,271 on Saturday

With swathes of empty seats, the atmosphere was flat and there was no stars and stripes fanfare – in contrast to the 200-piece marching band at the college football on Friday night.

‘It’s integral to the success of this project that the game is sold out,’ said Dominic Hayes, Premiership Rugby’s commercial director, in June.

More could have been done to advertise the occasion around the city and the promoters will be back to their drawing board as they prepare the third instalment of this American series.

Liam Williams runs up the field with the ball against the Newcastle Falcons
Liam Williams runs up the field with the ball against the Newcastle Falcons

Liam Williams runs up the field with the ball against the Newcastle Falcons

Local fans waited with anticipation to see Billy Vunipola, who has previously linked himself with a switch to the NFL, and the No 8 showed flashes of his power on a rusty return from injury.

Newcastle flanker Mark Wilson showed his England quality with early turnovers and lineout steals, but it was local boy Chris Wyles who opened the scoring for Saracens after seven minutes.

Maro Itoje claimed the lineout and, after Liam Williams and Alex Goode combined off first phase ball, the winger dotted down on the left wing with ease as the Falcons defence went AWOL.

Full-back Williams is tackled by Simon Hammersley of the Newcastle Falcons
Full-back Williams is tackled by Simon Hammersley of the Newcastle Falcons

Full-back Williams is tackled by Simon Hammersley of the Newcastle Falcons

The spectacular backdrop of the 4000-metre bridge which connects Philadelphia and New Jersey over the Delaware river was more eye catching than most of the rugby in the first half.

Lions hooker Jamie George spilt the ball in the tackle and, after Wilson intercepted to break downfield, Fijian winger Veriniki Goneva arrived in support to level the score after 27 minutes.

Temperatures reached 30C in the sunshine, far from a wet and windy December night at Kingston Park, but Owen Farrell soon took the heat out the contest with 12 unanswered points.

There were occasional whoops for Nili Latu’s crunching tackles as the Americans showed their appetite for big hats and flashes of brilliance, rather than an 80-minute arm wrestle for the purists.

Only an American-style underdog story could have saved the day but, after 74 minutes, Goneva was shown a yellow card and Saracens were awarded a penalty try to seal the win.  

 

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