Newcastle Falcons 17 Northampton Saints 31: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Jamie Gibson started in the back row
Jamie Gibson started in the back row

It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

And that is great news for a Saints side who are currently riding on the crest of a wave.

Tom Collins scored three first-half tries

Tom Collins scored three first-half tries

Having previously only won two away league matches, at Bristol and Worcester, they rocked up to Welford Road in March and ran riot during the first half against Leicester Tigers.

Their next Premiership trip was to Harlequins a couple of weeks ago, and again they bossed the first 40 minutes before eventually getting the job done late on.

And at Newcastle, a blistering first-half display put them in control against the Falcons before they managed to defend well enough to hold off the hosts' second-half charge.

Saints have just got this confidence about them right now, and it is coursing through the club.

Luther Burrell looked for the offload

Luther Burrell looked for the offload

Sometimes you conduct interviews and struggle to believe the belief that the players are conveying.

But not at Franklin's Gardens at the moment.

Earlier this week, Cobus Reinach insisted Saints could be champions this season.

That seemed slightly fanciful given they were sixth at the time and facing a tricky trip to a Newcastle team who simply had to win.

Dan Biggar pulled the strings for Saints

Dan Biggar pulled the strings for Saints

But Reinach's confidence proved well-founded as his side rocked up and grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, scoring three first-half tries, through wing Tom Collins.

They then displayed real character to stop a Falcons team who flew out of the blocks after the break.

Alex Mitchell's late Reinach-esque score put the seal on the success, bagging the bonus point in the process.

It moved Saints up to fourth and they must now be favourites to finish there given the fixtures their main rivals - Harlequins and Wasps - face in the weeks to come.

Falcons fans were left deflated as their side are now staring relegation in the face

Falcons fans were left deflated as their side are now staring relegation in the face

That is some achievement, given Saints were staring down the same barrel as Newcastle when they suffered late heartache at the hands of the Falcons at the Gardens back in December.

On that occasion, Dean Richards' men snatched a 16-14 success to leave Saints sitting ninth, just three points off the bottom.

But how they have built since then.

They won that crucial game at Worcester just before Christmas, eviscerated Sale at the Gardens in February and then earned victories at Tigers, Quins and now Falcons.

They also claimed Premiership Rugby Cup glory at the expense of Saracens in March, giving Boyd's team the taste for silverware.

And the way they are playing right now, you might not want to bet against them.

They must sort out their second-half slumps, which have threatened to cost them, and which will cost them against the best sides.

But if they can do that, they can be a more than awkward semi-final opponent if they do indeed convert their current strong league standing into a play-off place this season.

How they rated...

AHSEE TUALA

Calm and composed, the Samoan full-back returned to his regular role and did little wrong against a fired-up Falcons team... 7

TOM COLLINS

His pace is often too much for opposition teams to handle and he simply loves a try, bagging three here in a stellar showing that means he is a must against Worcester next week... 9

RORY HUTCHINSON

Constantly caused problems for Falcons, with his ability to find space where there appeared to be little once again on show... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

Was unfortunate to be denied a try by a good tap tackle during the first half, but he kept battling in a strong return to action... 7

TAQELE NAIYARAVORO

A big display from the big man, who carried the fight to the Falcons impressively and provided some great offloads that helped Saints gain ground and tries... 8

DAN BIGGAR

Seems to land every penalty and conversion that comes his way right now but he is so much more than just a boot and he controlled things nicely in the first half... 7

COBUS REINACH

The scrum-half ran the show during the first half with some of his combination play with Collins particularly eye-catching... 9

FRANCOIS VAN WYK

Continued his strong season with another decent display here as he did his best to combat Falcons at the scrum and breakdown... 7

REECE MARSHALL

His outstanding offload led to a try for Collins and the hooker was on target with his lineouts in a strong showing... 8

PAUL HILL

Falcons were not easy opponents up front but the prop showed his power as he dealt with the home side well... 7

API RATUNIYARAWA

Did his job defensively, fronting up to a physical Falcons team while also landing a few blows of his own in attack... 7

COURTNEY LAWES - CHRON STAR MAN

A gargantuan showing from the England lock, who intervened time and again, particularly during the second half, to earn Saints the win under huge pressure... 9

JAMIE GIBSON

Looked sharp in defence and attack as he gave another example of his value to this Saints squad... 7

TOM WOOD

Was second only to Lawes in the tackle count as he delivered another big shift for his side when they needed it... 7

TEIMANA HARRISON

A bundle of energy once again, the No.8 refused to stop working as he tried to keep Saints in front at Kingston Park... 7