Newcastle Falcons began their pre-season campaign with a victory at Kingston Park Stadium, defeating Championship semi-finalists Doncaster Knights in the first game of Saturday’s double header.
Both sides opted for the territorial route in the early exchanges with some prolonged kicking exchanges, the Knights opening the scoring via a fifth-minute penalty from Dougie Flockhart as Newcastle were blown for obstruction.
A grubber from Chris Harris kept Doncaster’s blitz defence honest as Newcastle looked for holes in behind, Josh Matavesi showing early promise with soft hands to put captain Nili Latu through a midfield hole.
The Falcons, for all their industry, had to wait until the 18th minute for their first try, Adam Radwan chasing down Harris’ kick ahead and scooping up the bouncing ball to dot down in the right corner. Hodgson converted impressively from the touchline.
Matavesi’s early departure handed a debut to teenage centre Charlie Wilson, the former RGS Newcastle pupil catching the eye straightaway with a neat fend before quickly recycling possession.
Clean breaks were few and far between in the opening half as both teams blew away the summer cobwebs, new combinations finding their rhythm in the club’s first hit-out of 2017-18. But there was no stopping Sinoti Sinoti when the Samoan sped in for a 40-metre solo try on the half-hour, his burst for the left corner giving his team a 12-3 half-time lead.
Newcastle’s momentum continued after the break when a fleeting run from Hodgson down the left tram-lines threatened to bring about a try, only for the visitors’ scrambling defence to dig them out of trouble.
It was a mere temporary reprieve as an increasingly efficient Falcons side found a third try via Sam Stuart, the former Richmond scrum-half whose slick passing caught the eye in his first outing for the club.
A raft of substitutions from both sides disrupted the flow in the final third as play became increasingly scrappy, Latu continuing to make his presence felt with a string of physical carries and tackles.
But the Falcons found a fourth try on 72 minutes when forward carries from Will Witty and Callum Chick set up Hodgson for a score, the fly-half putting in a sublime sidestep to breeze past the last man.
Replacement Will Burden found a try for a never-say-die Doncaster outfit in the left corner going into the dying embers, Ben Sowrey grabbing the Falcons’ fifth try with the final play as Harris put him away to the right corner.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Cameron Cowell, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Kyle Cooper, 3 Jack Payne, 4 Will Witty, 5 Glen Young, 6 Harrison Orr, 7 Nili Latu (captain), 8 Callum Chick.
Replacements: Jamie Blamire, Adam Brocklebank, Nick Civetta, Mark Wilson, James Elliott, Toby Flood, Charlie Wilson, Ben Sowrey, Diogo Ferreira, Josh Williams, Max Davies.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Adam Radwan, Sinoti Sinoti, Sam Stuart, Joel Hodgson, Ben Sowrey. Conversions: Joel Hodgson 3.
Doncaster Knights: 15 Charlie Foley, 14 Dougie Flockhart, 13 Andy Bulumakau, 12 Lloyd Hayes, 11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Declan Cusack (captain), 9 Tom James; 1 Jack Bergmanas, 2 David Nelson, 3 Ian Williams, 4 Morgan Eames, 5 Tom Hicks, 6 Jason Hill, 7 Sam Jones, 8 Aaron Carpenter.
Replacements: Curtis Langdon, Owen Evans, Colin Quigley, Matt Challinor, Alex Shaw, Joe Sproston, Michael Heaney, Sam Brooke, Will Burden, James Wright, Junior Bulumakau.
Doncaster scorers - Tries: Will Burden. Penalties: Dougie Flockhart.
Referee: Hamish Smales
Assistant referees: Matt Daubney & Chris Sharp