ERCC – Bucharest Wolves 10 Newcastle Falcons 52

Saturday 24 January 2015 Written by: Adam

Newcastle Falcons secured their place in the quarter-finals of the European Rugby Challenge Cup after a convincing victory in Romania on Saturday.

Knowing they needed a four-try bonus point win over Bucharest Wolves in the city of Cluj they had the job done after just 34 minutes, Welsh referee Neil Hennessy awarding a penalty try from a rapidly-advancing maul in the left corner.

By that stage the Falcons were already well ahead, Rob Vickers having opened the scoring on eight minutes when the loose-head hit a hard crash-ball line from a close-range ruck.

Mark Wilson’s line-break and Juan Pablo Socino’s support run handed the Argentine the second try as he sped in from the 22, the game having been moved 300 miles from the Romanian capital due to anticipated freezing conditions.

In the end the temperatures stayed above zero, the 31,000 capacity Cluj Arena seeing a vocal smattering of Falcons supporters enjoying a one-sided contest. Try number three arrived on 26 minutes when Alex Tait dotted down in the left corner, Simon Hammersley sucking in the defence with a well-judged running line before the ball was worked wide to the space.

Fly-half Tom Catterick converted all four first-half tries in the week he signed a new two-year contract, Bucharest hitting back to reduce the half-time arrears to 28-10. That was after outside centre Catalin Dascalu picked a hard midfield running line and collected a short pop pass to race 40 metres, fly-half Daniel Statulescu adding to his earlier penalty with the simple conversion.

Newcastle’s dominance returned with the start of the second half, Vickers accepting a pop down the blind-side for his second try as the Yorkshireman scurried in at the left corner. Catterick slotted the touch-line conversion to maintain his 100% record, Bucharest’s blitz defence forcing quick decisions but Newcastle rising to the challenge with a slick offloading game.

That much was clear when Hammersley’s scoring pass handed Tait a second score, the right winger breezing in to extend the deficit to 32.

Replacement Rory Clegg made his presence at fly-half felt during the closing quarter, feeding Socino for his second try as the centre smashed a path to the line from five metres. With quarter-final qualification assured it was points difference that became the prime consideration, the home side however demonstrating their resolve with a concerted period of pressure in the Falcons’ 22.

There was still time for one more Newcastle try, and it was worth the wait when a multi-phase move ended with Richard Mayhew flipping a killer pass out of the back of the hand for Andy Davies, the replacement scrum-half tip-toeing inside the left touchline to take his side past the half-century.

BUCHAREST WOLVES: I Botezatu, M Apostol (A Ilie, 54), C Dascalu, C Gal, R Neagu, D Statulescu (I Niacsu, 70), G Diaconescu; P Tamba (S Vasiliu, 46), O Turashvili (captain, A Oancea, 61)), V Badalicescu (C Pristavita, 54), P Neacsu (M Dico, 40), C Tatu, J van Heerden, S Morrell, C Ene. Sin bin: S Morrell (34)

Bucharest scorers – Tries: C Dascalu. Conversions: D Statulescu. Penalties: D Statulescu.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: S Hammersley (R Clegg, 60), A Tait, A Powell (T Penny, 64), JP Socino, L Smith, T Catterick, R Tipuna (A Davies, 60); R Vickers (E Fry, 52), S Lawson (R Hawkins, 52), K Brookes (A Rogers, 67), C Green, K Thompson (S Robinson, 40), R Mayhew, W Welch (captain), M Wilson (A Saull, 60).

Falcons scorers – Tries: R Vickers 2, JP Socino 2, A Tait 2, Penalty try, A Davies. Conversions: T Catterick 6.

Referee: N Hennessy (Wales).