Stephen Myler passed 2,000 points for Northampton as the Aviva Premiership leaders earned a bonus-point 39-31 victory over Newcastle in last night’s encounter at a sold-out Franklin’s Gardens.
But the Falcons will be delighted to come away with a bonus point thanks to four tries from Chris Harris, George McGuigan, Alex Tait and Richard Mayhew.
They probably deserved a losing bonus point as well but tries from Myler, who also kicked 12 points, George Pisi, Calum Clark, Luther Burrell and a penalty try denied Dean Richards’ men.
Only Paul Grayson has scored more points for Northampton than Myler, and it was Grayson, as director of rugby, who signed the fly-half from rugby league’s Salford City Reds in 2006.
Myler opened the scoring with an easy penalty on 10 minutes, but it was anything but a straightforward win as Newcastle continued to show just how much they are improving under Richards.
Northampton missed two golden try-scoring chances before George North gathered on his 10-metre line to spark a superb move that saw George Pisi round one and then hold off another tackler to send Myler over in the corner.
The fly-half got up to land the conversion to give the Saints a 10-0 lead after 16 minutes.
Newcastle hit back five minutes later with Number 8 Mark Wilson making a tackle-busting run in midfield and then Tom Catterick poked a grubber kick through for winger Harris to dot down in the corner. Falcons academy-product Catterick landed the difficult conversion and then drew Newcastle level with a penalty on 29 minutes.
George Pisi restored Northampton’s lead five minutes before half-time. Another break from North set up the attack before Myler squeezed through a grubber kick for the Samoan to score. Myler added the extras to make it 17-10 at the break.
Myler add three more points thanks to a scrum penalty at the start of the second half before Falcons lock Josh Furno was sent to the sin-bin on 48 minutes for killing the ball and Northampton moved in for the kill.
From the ensuing line-out Samu Manoa dropped the ball as he twisted round to score, though a superb tackle from Mayhew was a contributing factor. But Northampton came again and, although the TMO had a long look at Ken Pisi’s final pass, the run from Ben Foden deserved a try and it was Calum Clark on the end of it.
Clark was denied a second try as he was on the back of a line-out drive that was brought down illegally and referee Ian Tempest gave a penalty try. The score sealed the bonus point for Northampton and Myler converted to reach 2,000 points for the club and leave the field to a standing ovation.
At 32-10 it looked all over but with the five points in the bag Saints switched off and McGuigan was on the end of a Newcastle line-out drive before Harris fended off Burrell to set up Tait’s try. Catterick converted both to make it 32-24.
Burrell made up for his mistake to get on the end of another North break. Still Newcastle came back and scored their fourth try through another line-out drive which Mayhew dotted down.