Newcastle Falcons kicked off 2013 in style with a bonus-point triumph over Doncaster Knights at Castle Park on New Year’s Day.
A brace from Zach Kibirige coupled with a Rory Lawson score and a penalty try secured the spoils for the Falcons as they extended their unbeaten run to 17 games.
The Falcons had an early opportunity to breach the hosts’ rearguard through winger Kibirige, who was making his second league start of the campaign.
Towering lock James Hudson won the ball against the throw at the lineout midway inside Doncaster’s half, before the ball was swiftly switched wide right to Kibirige, whose attempted deft chip and chase was ushered into touch by Tyson Lewis.
On 10 minutes Newcastle did get points on the board through a Joel Hodgson penalty after referee Ian Tempest penalised the South Yorkshiremen for an infringement at the scrum.
Three-up and the scene was set for Dean Richards’ men to kick-on, but the Knights were immediately on level terms thanks to a Jamie Lennard penalty. Mr Tempest spotted an altercation at the ruck after Taiasina Tu’ifua collected the ball safely from the kick-restart.
Marching back up-field, the Falcons tested Doncaster’s defensive resolve with a four minute period of solid pressure, resulting in a five-point score.
Winning a scrum deep inside Doncaster’s 22, Samoan international Tu’ifua took the initiative with a pick and drive from the back of the scrum only to be held up over the line. From the subsequent five-metre scrum skipper for the day Lawson sold his marker with a dummy to ease in at the corner. Hodgson failed with the touchline conversion and the Falcons led 8-3.
Doncaster were reduced to 14 men when hooker Rhys Buckley was sent to the bin, before the Falcons underlined their dominance in the pack to register their second try of the game.
In keeping with the theme for the season, the Falcons yet again showed their supremacy at the scrum. Five metres from the Knights’ whitewash the northeasterners shepherded the ball towards the line before being awarded the penalty try which Hodgson duly converted to make it 15-3. Back from injury, Jonny Golding took the plaudits from his fellow teammates for the part he played at the scrum.
The task was made even harder for Doncaster when they were down to 13 men on the half hour mark. Centre Dante Mama was yellow carded for tackling Tane Tu’ipulotu without the ball after Hodgson unhinged Doncaster’s backline with a quick burst of pace.
With the break looming the Falcons had to withstand heavy pressure from the Castle Park outfit as they pushed for a way back into the contest.
Following a string of drives from ex Falcon Kieran Brookes and Tomas Davies, fly-half Connor Braid’s cross field kick was fumbled by Ryan Shortland with Jamie Lennard capitalising to touch down.
Lennard converted his own score to close the gap to 15-10 going into the interval.
Within the first two minutes of the second-half Hodgson extended the Falcons’ advantage to 18-10 with a 30-metre penalty. And it got even better for the visitors moments later by virtue of a Kibirige try in the far corner.
Putting his football skills to the test, Pacific Islander Tu’ifua dabbed the ball into the corner with the pace of Luke Fielden and Kibirige giving chase. The latter got sufficient downward pressure after Fielden was unable to touch down. Hodgson missed the conversion and the Falcons held the upper hand at 23-10.
Club captain Will Welch made a welcome return to action after being side-lined through injury, replacing Richard Mayhew on 58 minutes.
With eight minutes left on the clock Newcastle looked like they were going to be denied the bonus point by the officials, who adjudged replacement No.10 Waisea Luveniyali to have had his foot in touch when pouncing on his kick through to cross in the corner.
But the Falcons remained resolute and a minute from time Kibirige grabbed his brace for the afternoon to seal maximum points. The Middlesbrough-born academy product sprinted in at the corner after quick hands from centres Jamie Helleur and Tane Tu’ipulotu.
Hodgson missed the conversion and the Falcons secured a 28-10 triumph to put them on 61 points for the season and maintain their 100 per cent record.
Doncaster Knights: 15 Jamie Lennard, 14 Douglas Flockhart, 13 Dante Mama, 12 James Tincknell, 11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Connor Braid, 9 Louis Silver, 1 Tomas Davies, 2 Rhys Buckley, 3 Kieron Brookes, 4 Matthew Challinor (c), 5 Dominic Parsons, 6 Samuel Pailor, 7 Jethro Rawling, 8 Christopher Planchant
Replacements: 16 William Hafu, 17 Brian McGovern, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Royce Cadman, 20 Andrew Boyde, 21 Christopher Hallam, 22 Andrew Symons
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Luke Fielden, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson (c), 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 James Goode, 19 Will Welch, 20 Waren Fury, 21 Waisea Luveniyali, 22 Jamie Helleur
Referee: Ian Tempest