7 Jun, 15:39
ERC can confirm that the Federation Française de Rugby (FFR) has withdrawn its application to host the 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals, due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding the availability of the Stade de France.
Jonny Wilkinson returned to the Newcastle side but despite having an influential match - particularly in the first half - he could not stop his side going down 31-10 to Saracens at Vicarage Road.
The ability to keep a shutout game is an important skill which Newcastle have lacked this season, and it came back to haunt them as they fell apart in the second period.
It was a promising start from Newcastle. Coach Rob Andrew has encouraged a free-flowing style playing with ball in hand, a policy that infuriates as much as it delights, and they ominously failed to turn early pressure into points. A penalty goal from Saracens outside half Andy Goode after 10 minutes opened the scoring.
Wilkinson replied moments later to restore parity.
Newcastle earned their first try after 20 minutes. Hugh Vyvyan began the move with a strong drive forward, a long missed pass from Wilkinson made its way to No 8 Phil Dowson who found a gap in the Saracens defence to touch down in the corner. Wilkinson's excellent kick from wide on the left sailed through to give Newcastle a 10-3 advantage.
The Newcastle pack were on top for large periods in the opening half-hour, giving Wilkinson the platform to punish Saracens, and his kicking showed no signs of rustiness after a two-month absence from competitive rugby since sustaining a shoulder injury in England's autumn Test against South Africa.
Slowly, Saracens began to force themselves back into the game, cranking up the gears as they put pressure on the Newcastle eight.
They will have gone into the interval disappointed they could not break the visitors' try-line. In the end they had to settle for a penalty goal from Goode after concerted Saracens pressure.
The second half began with a yellow card for Saracens prop Johnny Marsters. With the extra man Newcastle played a lot of rugby, but it was all around the halfway and 10m lines and time after time they failed to make the final pass, scrum-half James Grindal guilty of wasting ball on more than one occasion.
Saracens took the lead they were never to relinquish when slick hands from hooker Matt Cairns set the move up that was finished by prop Christian Califano. Goode's conversion took the score to 13-10.
Moments later, Goode slotted over a dropped goal and Saracens were pulling away.
The confidence had come back into the Watford team. The centre pairing of Tom Shanklin and Tim Horan looked dangerous, and their pressure was rewarded when Goode slotted his third penalty goal to put daylight between the sides.
And suddenly, in contrast to the first period, it was the Saracens defence that looked strong as Newcastle continued to waste chances.
Saracens scored their second try though lock Craig Yandell after 74 minutes, and Goode's conversion put the game out of reach for Newcastle at 26-10.
A sensational try from British and Irish Lion Richard Hill was the icing on the cake for Saracens, as he wove his way through the gap and thundered over the line as the clock ticked down.
Goode missed the conversion, but it didn't matter. Referee Joel Dume signalled the end of the match to leave Newcastle with a mountain to climb next week at Kingston Park.
Saracens 31- Newcastle 10
HT: 6-10 Attendance: 3,857
Saracens: Tries - C Califano, C Yandell, R Hill; Pens - A Goode 4; Cons - A Goode 2
Newcastle: Try - P Dowson; Pen - J Wilkinson; Con - J Wilkinson
Saracens: A Winnan; T Shanklin, K Sorrell, T Horan, D O'Mahoney; A Goode, K Bracken (capt); C Califano, J Ross, J Marsters, A Benazzi, S Hooper, K Chesney, R Hill, B Russell
Replacements: A Croall, M Cairns, C Yandell, T Roques, B Johnston, B Sparg, R Haughton
Newcastle Falcons: J Shaw; L Botham, J Noon, T May , M Stephenson; M Wilkinson, J Grindal; I Peel, N Makin, M Hurter, C Hamilton, S Grimes, J Dunbar, P Dowson, H Vyvyan
Newcastle Falcons: 22/12 Lost to London Irish 16-17(h-Powergen Cup Rd 6); 29/12 Lost London Irish 0-20 (a-Zurich Prem). 04/01 Lost to Sale 38-3 9(a Zurich Prem)
Saracens: 22/12 Beat Sale Sharks 26-20(h-Powergen Cup Rd 6); 29/12 Beat Leeds Tykes 11-6 (h-Zurich Prem). Lost Leicester 23-18 (a Zurich Prem)