Collins hat-trick helps Saints to slay Falcons and move into play-off places

Taqele Naiyaravoro was in action for Saints
Taqele Naiyaravoro was in action for Saints

Tom Collins scored a first-half hat-trick as Saints moved into the Gallagher Premiership play-off places thanks to a bonus-point 31-17 success at Newcastle Falcons.

The Falcons, who remain seven points behind Worcester at the foot of the table, came into the game desperate to fight for their Premiership lives, but they were blown away by a rampant Saints side during the opening 40 minutes.

Collins and South African star Cobus Reinach cut the Falcons apart with some sensational combination play.

It left Kingston Park in a state of stunned silence, but the noise levels did rise after the restart as Falcons fought hard to get back in the game.

They had Saints under siege at times, scoring twice, through prop Rodney Ah You and scrum-half Sonatane Takulua.

But Courtney Lawes led a huge late defensive effort and Alex Mitchell came off the bench to bag a Reinach-like intercept try after a lineout to earn Saints a maximum haul.

The five points pushed Saints up to fourth, one point ahead of Harlequins, who go to table-toppers Exeter Chiefs on Saturday afternoon.

The black, green and gold welcome Worcester Warriors next Saturday before finishing their season at Exeter on May 18, and the play-offs are now firmly on the radar.

Saints knew they would be made to work hard by a fired-up Falcons side under the Friday night lights, and the hosts took an early lead thanks to a Takulua penalty.

But Saints were finding gaps in the early stages of the game and after Luther Burrell was stopped by a brilliant tap tackle from hooker George McGuigan, a score was to come.

Collins made the initial lightning break and after Reinach was tackled, spilling the ball backwards, Collins was on hand to pick up and dot down.

Dan Biggar converted and he was soon slotting a penalty as the speed of Saints' passing and movement caused more problems for the home side.

It was all very quiet at Kingston Park, where the Falcons were struggling to get any sort of possession and territory.

And it wasn't long before Saints made them pay once again, producing a sublime move down the left as Reece Marshall and Taqele Naiyaravoro both offloaded superbly before Collins claimed his second score of the night.

Biggar bent the kick between the posts from a wide left position and even some home fans were applauding after a fine seven points from Saints.

Falcons desperately needed a lift and they thought they had it when full-back Simon Hammersley picked the ball up on the right and raced in to dot down.

But the TMO decided the final pass from Vereniki Goneva was forward and there was no try.

Saints were threatening every time they got the ball at the other end of the field and Collins looked like he might notch his hat-trick score but Falcons were able to scramble well.

However, they weren't able to stop him for long as, yet again, Reinach and Collins worked together supremely well, with the scrum-half setting the wing free down the right - and he did the rest to bag his treble.

Biggar was on target from the touchline once more and Saints held a commanding 24-3 half-time lead.

The Falcons players would have had some stern words at the break, and they clearly worked as they came out with intent in the second period.

Saints stood tall to force a knock-on, but when they spilled the ball in their own 22, they were forced to concede a penalty to prevent a try.

And after Falcons opted for a scrum, they used the home side used the platform to send powerful prop Ah You over.

Takulua converted to cut the gap to 14 points and some of the home fans finally found their voice.

And the home players had certainly found their feet as Takulua engineered a slick break that Saints did well to stop.

But the Falcons were flying forward at every opportunity and after some lovely interplay, Takulua roamed free to score before converting his own try.

The noise levels were starting to rise as the home fans sensed their side could now get the precious win they wanted at just 24-17 down.

Lawes did some great defensive work to win a penalty and thwart another Falcons surge, but the home side were now totally dominant.

Saints had to stand strong once again when a penalty went to the corner, and the away side did well to secure a turnover.

With 15 minutes remaining, the game was reaching its tipping point.

Falcons were bringing real physicality, but Saints were doing everything they could to resist and they managed to steady the game a little.

And with Newcastle struggling to make any inroads after being trapped in their own half, Mitchell pounced on a stray pass and raced in to score another crucial late try.

Biggar wrapped things up as Saints celebrated another impressive away-day success.

Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Goneva, Harris, Matavesi (Williams 58 (Matavesi 74)), Sinoti; Flood (cc) (Swiel 66), Takulua; Mulipola, McGuigan (Cooper 64), Ah You (Lockwood 77); Green, Davidson (Robinson 55); Chick (Graham 65); Wilson (cc), Nagusa.

Saints: Tuala; Collins, Hutchinson, Burrell, Naiyaravoro; Biggar, Reinach (Mitchell 66); van Wyk (Waller 63), Marshall (Ma'asi 77), Hill (Franks 63); Ratuniyarawa, Lawes; Gibson, Wood, Harrison (c).

Referee: Luke Pearce

Attendance: 6,389

Cobus Reinach ran the show during the first half

Cobus Reinach ran the show during the first half

Courtney Lawes was superb for Saints

Courtney Lawes was superb for Saints

Tom Wood got stuck in

Tom Wood got stuck in