Newcastle Falcons under-18s got 2013 underway with a strong performance against a North of England under-18s outfit containing a further six Falcons Academy players.
The early exchanges were evenly matched with both sides missing early chances at goal. The North were first on the score-sheet with a penalty from the 22 metre line after some powerful carries, before Falcons pressure led to an opportunist try for winger Zach Kibirige on 20 minutes.
After good phase play in the opposition third the ball spilt out of the tackle and Ampleforth-based scrum half Charlie Birkett picked and fed Kibirige who raced home down the left touchline. The Falcons driving lineout kept the North of England team on the back foot and with the last play of the half Josh Hedley went over after a quickly taken tap penalty from close range. Willis added the extras to take the half time score to 14-3.
The early exchanges in the second stanza were quite evenly matched with the only clear cut opportunity falling to Falcons captain David Nelson, who broke clear only for his Falcons teammate Tom Penny to make a superb last ditch tackle.
In the final quarter the North of England started to play a really expansive game which tested the Falcons resolve to the maximum. After sustained pressure on the Falcons line and faced with a two man overlap against him, Kibirige intercepted on his own line and ran the length of the field to take the score to 21-3. Straight from the kick-off the North of England retained the ball and scored in the left corner through centre Josh Walters. The conversion was missed and the game ended 21-8 in favour of the Falcons.
The North of England now go on to play in their divisional festival against the Midlands and the South East before the England under-18 Aspirational Squad, coached by Northumberland RDO Dave Reed, is selected. The Falcons youngsters are next in action against Leicester Tigers on Saturday 12 January at Billingham RFC (kick-off 1.30pm).
Newcastle Falcons U18 Squad:
Jamie Guy (Blaydon RFC/Northumberland)*
Ben Wilkinson (Gosforth Academy/Percy Park RFC/Northumberland)
Jack Blakeney-Edwards (Durham School/Cumbria)
denotes U19 player
North of England U18 Squad:
Tom Penny (Northumberland/Newcastle Falcons)
Dom Butler (Yorkshire)
The Falcons have four games remaining in the U18 Academy League and several other fixtures at various age groups before the end of the season, details of which are outlined below: