Saracens see off Falcons
Saracens strengthened their position at the top of the Aviva Premiership table with a 23-18 victory over Newcastle at Kingston Park.
Leicester's defeat to Harlequins on Friday meant Sarries started the match having already secured a home play-off semi-final, but the league leaders did not take their foot off the pedal.
Tries from Tim Streather and Ben Ransom took them nine points clear of second-placed Northampton with only 10 left to play for between now and the end of the regular season.
The struggling Falcons did manage to secure a crucial losing bonus point thanks to a late try from Warren Fury. They are now eight points clear of bottom side Worcester with only two games remaining.
It looked like it may turn out even better for the Falcons when they scored the first try of the match after just three minutes, Sinoti Sinoti shrugging off two cover tackles to finish a fine move in the corner.
Jack Wilson took out Alex Tait in the air in the eighth minute to earn himself a yellow card, but Saracens showed why they are top of the table by scoring an impressive try while down to 14 men.
Their 11th-minute effort was started by Alex Goode and ended with an easy finish for Streather after some adept handling from Matt Stevens, Alistair Hargreaves and Jackson Wray.
Charlie Hodgson added the conversion from out wide for good measure and kicked an 18th minute penalty to make it 10-5 and dent the Falcons' early optimism.
Saracens continued to come forward but the Falcons kept them out and Joel Hodgson nailed a 48-metre penalty to make it 10-8 to the visitors at the break.
Saracens restored the five-point gap shortly after the restart when Charlie Hodgson booted over another penalty.
The Falcons pack did manage to pressure the Saracens scrum and a 57th minute penalty allowed Joel Hodgson narrow the lead to two points again.
But Saracens regrouped at the set piece and Newcastle quickly went backwards at successive scrums, with a subsequent penalty allowing Charlie Hodgson to slot over another three-pointer.
The lead was increased when Sinoti threw a wild pass 30 metres from the Saracens line and Ransom snapped it up to race away for a converted try.
Knowing the value of a losing bonus point, Newcastle threw everything into attack in the closing minutes and were rewarded when Fury scrambled over and the try was eventually confirmed by the television match officials. Phil Godman added the extras.