Sale Sharks 39 Newcastle Falcons 254th November 2004
Newcastle Falcons found themselves on the losing end of an eight-try thriller on Friday against Sale Sharks, in a bonfire night encounter which was not short of spark.
Leading 22-20 at the interval, the Falcons fell victim to second half tries from Sebastien Bruno, Dean Schofield and Charlie Hodgson, and despite a brave effort and three controversial disallowed tries, were ultimately denied even a bonus point.
The Falcons made a late change to their team when Epi Taione came in at centre for Englands Jamie Noon, who rolled an ankle last weekend against Perpignan but was fit enough to take up his place on the bench and did make a second half appearance.
Newcastle gave a debut to openside flanker Cory Harris who impressed in his first outing, while blindside Mike McCarthy continued his run as the only Falcons player to start every competitive game of the campaign as he took the field for the tenth time in succession.
Sale, second in the table going into the game, were without wing Steve Hanley and England prop Trevor Woodman through injury, but boasted six England squad players in their match-day 22.
A lightning first half saw the Falcons camped in the Sale 22 for the opening 20 minutes, although two penalties from the half way line from England fly half Hodgson saw the hosts into a 6-0 lead after ten minutes of play.
Matthew Burke halved that deficit with a long range strike of his own, while both he and Harris were a nuisance in the Sale 22.
Scrum half James Grindal sniped from five metres after Newcastle pressure and the visitors were twice judged by referee Steve Lander to be held up over the line when tries looked to have been scored.
It was on 22 minutes when the visitors finally turned their possession into points, when a Phil Dowson break from a five metre scrum saw the ball then worked left. Mathew Tait and Taione combined, before the Tongan offloaded out of the tackle to the supporting Tom May - Burke adding the conversion.
Sale hit back six minutes later when an Andy Titterrell run pierced the Falcons midfield, and from the resulting drive loose head prop Andy Sheridan barged over, Hodgson converting.
The Falcons turned down a kickable penalty as they went for the close range line out, and after a string of reset scrums left wing Michael Stephenson finally scored in the left corner, as Taione stood up the defence brilliantly before letting rip with a long miss pass which put the wide man in.
It got even better on 36 minutes when May grabbed his second try courtesy of a 50-metre interception. The right winger outpaced Jason Robinson and Hodgson to finish brilliantly in the right corner, before Burke nailed the touchline conversion.
The first half scoring was not finished however after a breathless opening 40 minutes, and it was on the strike of half time that breaks from Titterrell and Sebastien Chabal paved the way for Hodgson to run in the try down the right hand side.
He converted his own score, bringing a highly entertaining half to an end with his side trailing 22-20 to the visitors.
The second half started with Walder dropping into the pocket after slow ball in the Sale half and making no mistake with an opportunist drop goal to extend the lead to five points.
Hodgson hit the post with a penalty following offside at a clearance kick, while Dowson and Hall Charlton did well to stem a Sharks attack down the left wing with good work in the ruck area as Chris Mayor broke.
But Sale did manage to cross the line as the pressure told, when lock Dean Schofield barged over the whitewash - Hodgsons missed conversion leaving the scores tied at 25-25.
Burke hit the post with a penalty attempt from 40 metres out down the left hand side, and Sales attacking was rewarded when they played advantage from a midfield high tackle and French hooker Bruno popped up on the right wing to score, converted by Hodgson.
The fly half then went wide with a drop goal attempt as the half wore on, while Dowson fell just short of the line with a pick-and-go from the scrum in the dying minutes the supporting players looking to have grounded the ball for a try, again to no avail as Lander awarded a penalty against them.
And after a box kick from Martens the visitors were denied even a bonus point when Mays attempted catch fell into the arms of the onrushing Mayor, who found Hodgson in support for the try, with the fly half adding the extras.
The Falcons fought hard for the bonus point but were denied on two occasions when the last pass agonisingly failed to make it to hand, with the final whistle coming not long after to bring an end to an entertaining but disappointing night for the north-easterners.
Tries: Sheridan, Hodgson 2, Schofield, Bruno
Cons: Hodgson 4
Pens: Hodgson 2
Tries: May 2, Stephenson
Cons: Burke 2
15 Jason Robinson (captain)
14 Mark Cueto
13 Jos Baxendell (Chris Rhys Jones, 65)
12 Robert Todd
11 Chris Mayor
10 Charlie Hodgson
9 Bryan Redpath (Sililo Martens, 45)
1 Andrew Sheridan
2 Andy Titterrell (Sebastien Bruno, 40)
3 Stuart Turner (Barry Stewart, 57)
4 Chris Jones (Chris Day, 47)
5 Dean Schofield
6 Jason White
7 Magnus Lund
8 Sebastien Chabal (Pierre Caillet, 75)
Chris Rhys Jones
15 Matthew Burke (Jamie Noon, 65)
14 Tom May
13 Mathew Tait
12 Epi Taione
11 Michael Stephenson
10 Dave Walder
9 James Grindal (Hall Charlton, 52)
1 Ian Peel (captain, James Isaacson, 40)
2 Andy Long (Matt Thompson, 52)
3 Micky Ward (Ian Peel, 60)
4 Craig Hamilton (Andy Buist, 73)
5 Stuart Grimes
6 Mike McCarthy (Semo Sititi, 52)
7 Cory Harris
8 Phil Dowson
Referee: Steve Lander
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