Long arm of Wilson drags his Falcons off the bottom
DEAN Richards praised Mark Wilson after the England man returned to club action and inspired Falcons to a dramatic, crucial victory at Franklin’s Gardens.
Flanker Wilson reached out a long arm deep into injury time after Dan Biggar had been shown a yellow card, to touch the ball against the base of a post and level the contest. Toby Flood stepped up to coolly kick the conversion for the win, sparking wild celebrations from the visiting players and fans.
Victory takes Falcons off the bottom of the table and above Sale Sharks and a relieved director of rugby Richards insisted: “Mark did very well on his return to us and I’m pleased he got that score. All the internationals who came back boosted the team.
“The referee could have given a penalty try at the end but I was happy we won by scoring that try ourselves. This is a big win for the guys.
“The guys deserved this because we’ve played well this season without winning games.”
Wilson’s try spoiled Dylan Hartley’s 250th appearance for Saints who led most of the way after falling behind to an early Flood penalty.
It was a first half of plenty of physicality and adventure from the home side but their rivals’ defence somehow managed to deny them. And, it was with an ironic groan, that when referee Matthew Carley penalised Saints at a ruck, Flood drifted his second penalty over to increase the advantage. The kick was made easier when Courtney Lawes cost his side an extra ten yards for complaining to Carley.
But the angst of the home supporters turned to cheers of joy when a scintillating, weaving run from Cobus Reinach saw him beat three attempted tacklers and dart over for his side’s opening try. Biggar impressing on his return from Welsh duty kicking superbly out of hand, also landed the conversion.
Falcons began to flag having had to soak up plenty of heavy Saints pressure and the gaps began to open. Flanker Teimana Harrison found a big one, taking Lawes pass in his stride and fed the supporting Reinach.
There was no stopping the scrum-half again as he left his tacklers swiping at mid-air and the South African’s second try, under the posts and converted by Biggar, gave his side some breathing space.
Brett Connon came on as a replacement for the dazed Simon Hammersley, taking off to be assessed, and showed his coolness to send over a long-range kick and reduce he deficit to five.
Then came a dramatic and frantic finish with Falcons camped on the Saints line desperately trying to muscle their way across. Referee Carley could easily have sent a Saint to the sin bin well before he signalled for Biggar to leave for constant foul play.
Down to 14 men, Saints finally cracked and one more push saw Wilson reach out for the crucial try. Flood’s conversion saw the visitors home for a win which will lift their spirits heading into European battle next weekend.
My ball: Falcons’ try-scorer Mark Wilson competes with Saints Teimana Harrison
Star man: Cobus Reinach dives in to score Saints’ first try