THEY have enjoyed a remarkable season that featured a European semi-final and a landmark appearance at St James’ Park, but a place in the Aviva Premiership final proved a step too far for Newcastle Falcons as they were crushed by Exeter Chiefs.

Falcons crashed to a resounding 36-5 defeat at Sandy Park, meaning reigning champions Exeter will face Saracens in Saturday’s Premiership final at Twickenham.

Dean Richards’ side were making their play-off debut, but were brushed aside at an early stage of proceedings as Exeter established a 16-point lead at the interval.

The Chiefs pulled further clear before Alex Tait claimed a late consolation try for Falcons, but the heavy defeat should not detract too much for an otherwise hugely successful campaign that saw Newcastle finish fourth in the Premiership table.

“We made some uncharacteristic errors,” said Richards. “The boys did not freeze on the day, they just did not capitalise on what opportunities they had.

“We talked about their possession in the first half, but it came about by us losing a couple of lineouts, losing a scrum and turning over the ball. If you get all those bits right, then that gives us a chance.”

Exeter monopolised the initial exchanges, with England pair Henry Slade and Sam Simmonds prominent as Newcastle were tested defensively.

Falcons had just seven per cent of possession in the first ten minutes, and they continued to be pinned inside their own half, making numerous tackles before two penalties from Simmonds took Exeter six points clear.

The Chiefs' relentless grip on proceedings began to take a heavier toll as half-time approached, with Newcastle lock Evan Olmstead being sin-binned by referee Matt Carley for a technical offence and Simmonds completing his penalty hat-trick.

Falcons also saw prop Scott Wilson carried off after he was on the receiving end of a hefty collision, and Exeter finally breached Newcastle's defence a minute before the break following a thrilling move launched from inside his own half by full-back Lachie Turner.

The Australian's searing pace caused panic in Newcastle's defence, and after flanker Dave Ewers and Olly Woodburn supported superbly, Nic White touched down between the posts and Simmonds converted for a 16-point lead.

Exeter also had the wind behind them for the second period, suggesting that Newcastle would face another long 40 minutes as they struggled to make any impression on proceedings.

Simmonds kicked two more penalties early in the second half, which effectively killed off any hope of a Newcastle fightback, although substitute Tait claimed a 57th-minute try before fly-half Toby Flood saw his conversion attempt charged down by Turner.

But before Newcastle could threaten any further in-roads, Exeter struck when White broke from the back of a scrum and sent Woodburn over in the corner for a touchdown that Simmonds converted magnificently from the touchline.

Newcastle's misery was completed when Tait dropped the ball in the act of touching down for what would have been his second try three minutes from time.

Newcastle: Hammersley (Tait 56), Goneva, Harris, Matavesi (JP Socino 56), Sinoti, Flood, Young (Takulua 50); Lockwood (Vickers 50), Cooper (S Socino 50), S Wilson (D Wilson 29), Green (Witty 64), Olmstead, M Wilson, Graham, Hogg (Latu 50).