NEWCASTLE FALCONS director of rugby Dean Richards bemoaned his side's inability to take their chances as their relegation worries deepened in the wake of a 26-12 defeat to Saracens.

The loss keeps Falcons rooted to the bottom of the Gallagher Premiership with four games to go, with Richards' side still three points adrift of 11th-placed Worcester ahead of Friday night's critical home game with another of the relegation-threatened sides, Leicester Tigers.

Tane Takulua kicked four penalties for Newcastle at the Allianz Arena, but it was not enough to secure a bonus point as they failed to take advantage of their first-half dominance.

Richards said: "We had three clear-cut try-scoring chances in 60 minutes and took none, they had three and took all of them. Our scrum was dominant for 50 minutes and our line-out functioned really well."

When Takulua kicked his fourth penalty, three minutes from time, Newcastle looked to have earned a deserved bonus point, but a disputed last-minute try from Alex Lozowski took that away.

Prior to Lozowski's finish, Saracens' wing Alex Lewington appeared to have put a foot in touch, but after lengthy discussions with the TMO, the try stood.

Richards said: " I don't know it whether it was a try or not but I have to question why we were given such an inexperienced set of officials as we are not getting the bounce of the ball, which we need in our present position."

Newcastle dominated possession for the first 15 minutes, with good distribution from Toby Flood enabling them to show some neat handling and good ball retention, but they lacked the creativity to penetrate the home defence.

Owen Farrell made three uncustomary kicking errors as lethargic Saracens struggled to make any impact. After last week's 56-27 hammering of Glasgow in the European Cup quarter-final, the scoreless first quarter was a huge let-down, which was not surprising with the hosts having changed nine of their starting line-up.

After 23 minutes, Newcastle had the first chance for points and Takulua made no mistake with a 20-metre penalty.

Saracens continued to make elementary errors, a couple of line-outs were lost, and there can not have been many poorer 30-minute performances from them in recent times.

From nowhere, they sprung to life after Farrell decided to move the ball after Takulua lost possession on half-time. Ben Spencer made the crucial break before a vital contribution from Max Malins sent Sean Maitland over.

Farrell missed the conversion so a second penalty from Takulua was enough to give Falcons a deserved 6-5 interval lead.

After the restart, Farrell found a good touch to ironic jeers from the crowd but the home side wasted their platform in the opposition 22 by conceding a needless penalty.

The third quarter saw an improved performance from Saracens, who penned the visitors in their own half and were rewarded with a second try.

Skilful running from Malins put Maitland into space and when the wing kicked ahead, Malins was on hand to pick up and score.

Farrell converted before Takulua kicked his penalty to leave Falcons trailing 12-9 at the end of the third quarter.

With 12 minutes remaining, Saracens sealed victory when Tompkins joined a driving line-out to score before Takulua looked to have earned his side a valuable bonus point with a superb strike from half-way but Lozowski's last-minute try took it away.

This Friday's home game with Leicester now looks crucial, and Richards is hoping to have England international Mark Wilson back in the ranks.

He said: "We have to replicate this performance and effort, but looking at Leicester's line-up today they are a very strong side. Mark Wilson has tweaked his back but he should be back for next week."