Newcastle Falcons 29 - 5 Connacht

Sunday 20 December 2015

Second half surge sees Falcons collect bonus point European victory.

A 24-point second-half surge saw Newcastle Falcons blow Connacht away as Dean Richards' side kept their European Challenge Cup quarter final hopes well and truly alive at Kingston Park Stadium.

Two tries from Marcus Watson and a pair of penalty tries were added to Belisario Agulla's touch-down as Newcastle showed power through the middle and pace out wide against a Connacht side who had gone into the game as the unbeaten group leaders.

The teams went into the interval all square as a pair of unconverted tries left them positioned on 5-5, Watson darting over for the Falcons and Danie Poolman following suit for the visitors.

Connacht almost had themselves ahead within the very first minute when Eoghan Masterson broke through the defensive line. The flanker was hauled down two metres shy of the try line, and in attempting to position the ball over the whitewash referee Ben Whitehouse judged the forward to have made a double movement.

That relieved the early pressure and enabled a keen Newcastle side to get into their game, Tane Takulua firing a relieving clearance to halfway following Dan Temm's powerful back row break.

Both sides were willing to keep the ball in hand, Simon Hammersley and Chris Harris probing for midfield holes against a Connacht side coached by Falcons legend Pat Lam.

Harris was equally enthusiastic in defence as he pulled off a turnover inside his own half, following the lead set by hooker Scott Lawson as the veteran pilfered possession on the deck. It all helped to frustrate a Connacht side not scared to move the ball wide, flyer Niyi Adeolokun keeping Newcastle's defence busy as he broke at every opportunity.

Just when it looked like neither team had a weakness in their defensive line Watson found one in Connacht's; the winger producing a moment of magic from out of nothing as he stepped, jinked and sped past at least three tacklers for a winder try.

Craig Willis' conversion was blown just wide by the wind, Connacht finding a leveller just after the half-hour when Danie Poolman repeated his scoring exploits from the previous week.

The full back was the beneficiary of a left-to-right transition of the ball through the hands, grounding in the corner as the sides entered the second half all square.

It was to be Connacht's first and last score as Newcastle won the second half 24-0, their incisive running and thirst for tries proving an unstoppable blend.

The first of their four further tries arrived less than five minutes after the restart, Takulua having been held up over the try-line to force a five-metre scrum. Connacht infringed at the set-piece and when Takulua quickly tapped the close-range penalty, Eoghan Masterson's illegal intervention saw the award of a penalty try.

Masterson spent ten minutes in the sin bin for his troubles, the Falcons making ample use of the extra man as Belisario Agulla grounded their third in the left corner from Hammersley's pass.

The full back was at his cutting best with a chip-and-chase down the right hand side, Newcastle again held up over the try line but earning a second penalty try when a series of five-metre scrums gave the official no other option.

That delivered a four-try bonus point, but they were not finished yet as Watson sped into the left corner for his second try before the hour mark.

It was no less than their territory and possession had deserved, the result injecting fresh life into the Falcons' season as they now prepare for the Premiership Boxing Day trip to Leicester.

Newcastle Falcons S Hammersley, A Tait, B Agulla, C Harris (JP Socino, 40), M Watson, C Willis (T Catterick, 64), T Takulua (M Young, 55); A Rogers (R Vickers, 50), S Lawson (G McGuigan, 50), J Welsh (T Vea, 57), M Botha, S Robinson (C Green, 57), W Welch (captain), D Temm (R Mayhew, 64), A Hogg.

Falcons scorers – Tries: M Watson 2, Penalty try 2, B Agulla. Conversions: C Willis 2.

Connacht D Poolman, R Parata, P Robb, C Ronaldson, N Adeolokun, S O'Leary, C Blade (I Porter, 47); C O'Donnell (F Bealham, 70), J Harris-Wright (S Delahunt, 60), R Ah You (S Meunargia, 52), D Qualter, A Browne (A Muldowney, 65), S O'Brien, E Masterson, G Naoupu (captain). Sin-bin: E Masterson (41).

Connacht scorers – Tries: D Poolman.

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales). Attendance: 4,067.

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