Newcastle Falcons’ dream start to the Aviva Premiership continued on Friday night in front of a season-high Kingston Park crowd, Dean Richards’ men recording a bonus-point victory to maintain their early-season momentum.
The Exiles had opened the scoring after just three minutes when full-back Tommy Bell sent over a penalty from 35 metres out, Newcastle trying to respond by kicking a penalty to the left corner.
On that occasion the driving maul was bundled out just short of the try-line, but the home side pulled level on 15 minutes when Sonatake Takulua sent over a penalty from the left following bursts by Mark Wilson and Rob Vickers.
It quickly got better for the home side as they hit Irish with a two-try blast in as many minutes, the first coming through Juan Pablo Socino as the centre sprinted 50 metres through the Exiles’ midfield from off-the-top line-out ball.
Takulua converted, and slotted a second from the left touchline within the blink of an eye when the Tongan scrum-half fed Vereniki Goneva for a powerful finish in heavy traffic.
The Fijian repeated the trick from much closer range when he barrelled over from a ruck on the Exiles’ try-line on 27 minutes, Irish unable to cope with the pace and power of Newcastle’s running and offloading game as the home side took a 24-3 lead into half-time.
The Falcons missed an opportunity to add to that when Takulua’s 44th minute penalty was blown off-course by the Kingston Park cross-wind, and a bonus point almost arrived quickly after when Goneva’s surge and Juan Pablo Socino’s support running got them to the 22 only for a knock-on to halt the move.
The Exiles moved to more of a kicking game in their quest for an in-road, Newcastle going close to a fourth try when Willis’s grubber to the right corner was only an inch away from being clawed in by DTH van der Merwe on his home debut.
The bonus point duly arrived on the hour mark when the home side kicked a penalty to the corner and powered over down the short side, skipper Will Welch the man to dot down after deliberation from the video referee.
The Exiles hit back when replacement flanker Conor Gilsenan collected an inside pass to race clear for a try down the right on 68 minutes, and added to their tally when Tom Fowlie crossed in the opposite corner.
But there was no denying a Falcons side their top-of-the-league placing as the final whistle came with the home time 12 to the good.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino (Josh Matavesi, 72), 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Sonatane Takulua (Sam Stuart, 65); 1 Rob Vickers (Sami Mavinga, 58), 2 Santiago Socino, 3 Jon Welsh (Trevor Davison, 65), 4 Calum Green, 5 Will Witty (Sean Robinson, 53), 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Nili Latu (Ally Hog, 58).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Juan Pablo Socino, Vereniki Goneva 2, Will Welch. Conversions: Sonatane Takulua 3. Penalties: Sonatane Takulua.
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 12 Johnny Williams (Greig Tonks, 40), 11 Napolioni Nalaga (Tom Fowlie, 58), 10 James Marshall, 9 Scott Steele (Ben Meehan, 68); 1 Ben Franks (Harry Elrington, 67), 2 David Paice (captain, Saia Fainga’a, 61), 3 Petrus Du Plessis (Ollie Hoskins, 51), 4 Franco van der Merwe, 5 Sebastian De Chaves (Teofilo Paulo, 55), 6 Josh McNally, 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus (Conor Gilsenan, 40).
Irish scorers - Tries: Conor Gilsenan, Tom Fowlie. Conversions: Tommy Bell 2. Penalties: Tommy Bell.
Referee: Ian Tempest. Attendance: 7,650.
Tait, Van Der Merwe, Harris, Socino, Goneva, Willis, Takulua, Vickers, Socino, Welsh, Green, Witty, Wilson, Welch, Latu
Replacements Lawson, Mavinga, Davison, Robinson, Hogg, Stuart, Hodgson, Matavesi
Bell, Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Williams, Nalaga, Marshall, Steele, Franks, Paice, Du Plessis, van der Merwe, De Chaves, McNally, Cowan, Treviranus
Replacements Fainga'a, Elrington, Hoskins, Paulo, Gilsenan, Meehan, Tonks, Fowlie
referee: Ian Tempest
assistant: Hamish Smales
assistant: Peter Allan
TMO: Stuart Terheege