Newcastle Falcons showing rapid improvement under Dean Richards

• Mark McCall says Falcons are ‘different proposition’
• Dean Richards praises attack coach Dave Walder
• Match report: Newcastle 23-25 Saracens

Back in April, when Saracens last visited the Premiership’s most northern outpost, they could afford to rest 13 first-choice players a week before their Heineken Cup semi-final against Clermont and still ease to a comfortable victory. Eight months on, it was rather different.

The relief was etched on the face of Mark McCall face long after Juan Pablo Socino’s last?second conversion attempt had drifted fractionally wide. From 25-13 up with six minutes remaining, tries from Nick Tompkins and Chris Ashton having taken Sarries into the comfort zone, the near-invincibles of last season came perilously close to a draw that would have been their fifth failure to win in the league this season. As McCall, their director of rugby, was quick to underline, the closeness of the contest at the end was a measure of how far Newcastle have come this season. “They’re the most improved team in the Premiership,” the former Ireland centre said. “They’re transformed. They’re a much different proposition than they were last season.”

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