Saturday 30 August 2014 Written by: Adam

Newcastle Falcons rounded their 2014-15 pre-season campaign off against Edinburgh Rugby at Hawick RFC’s Mansfield Park in an exciting and hard fought contest which saw the Falcons defeated 21-15 despite a strong performance.

Tries in each half from Mike Blair and Scott Wilson kept the Falcons in a highly competitive game for the full 80 minutes, although ex-Newcastle wing Tim Visser punished his old club with a try brace.

Samoan powerhouses Alesana and Anitelea Tuilagi had the crowd off their feet as they entered the fray for an action-packed cameo in the second half of the match, with Alesana’s first carry in a Newcastle shirt opening up a hole through which Ruki Tipuna raced upfield.

That wave of late pressure was just not enough to produce a winning score, but a positive performance had Newcastle in front early on when Juan Pablo Socino slotted an 18th minute penalty.

The Argentinean signing ran the game well after switching infield from the previous week’s showing against Rotherham, in which he scored a try from the centres.

Hitting hard in defence and linking with runners around him, the Falcons were repeatedly in behind the Edinburgh defence in front of an enthusiastic Borders crowd of 1,725.

Mark Wilson’s back-row running had them over the gain line, but it was Edinburgh who grabbed the first of the game’s four tries when Visser chased down a kick to the left corner from Scottish international Greig Tonks.

The Falcons pushed the pace as Mike Blair’s quick tap penalty five metres from the try-line allowed Mark Wilson a charge for the whitewash. The big Cumbrian was only a millimetre short in the week he committed his future to the Falcons, but Blair was on hand to mop up from the ruck and snipe in for a close-range try.

Socino converted for a 10-5 lead, Edinburgh resorting to the boot as a pair of Tonks penalties had the Scottish side 11-10 up at half-time.

The start of the second half saw Blair’s injury-enforced departure, allowing Tipuna a run at scrum-half, and the nippy Kiwi grabbed his chance with a string of breaks and swift continuity.

His side trailed by eight, however, when Danny Barnes’ massive clearance kick was returned with interest – a quick line-out on half-way seeing the ball worked infield to Visser.

The Dutchman sped 50 metres to the try-line, Tonks’ converting from in front.

That preceded a dominant period of Newcastle pressure, the Falcons’ scrum in the ascendancy as Socino enjoyed front-foot ball.

A patient period of recycling inside the Edinburgh half delivered a penalty in prime position, the decision to turn down the kick at goal being vindicated when replacement prop Scott Wilson was driven over from a rolling maul in the right corner.

The double threat of the Tuilagi brothers added considerable impetus as they were handed a late run, but it was Edinburgh who registered the last points of the evening when Scottish international Tom Heathcote smashed over a long-range penalty.

Newcastle Falcons: S Hammersley, N Cato, D Barnes, A Powell, T Catterick, JP Socino, M Blair; R Vickers, G McGuigan, O Tomaszczyk, C Green, D Barrow, M Wilson, W Welch (c), A Hogg.
Replacements: S Lawson, E Fry, S Wilson, J Furno, R Mayhew, A Saull, R Tipuna, P Godman, J Helleur, Al Tuilagi, An Tuilagi.

Falcons scorers – Tries: M Blair, S Wilson. Conversions: JP Socino. Penalties: JP Socino.

Edinburgh Rugby: J Cuthbert, D Fife, S Beard, A Strauss, T Visser, G Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland, R Ford (captain), J Andress, F McKenzie, O Atkins, J Ritchie, H Watson T Leonardi.
Replacements: J Hilterbrand, A Dickinson, S Berghan, B Toolis, A Toolis, M Bradbury, S Kennedy, G Hart, T Heathcote, P Burleigh, J Dominguez, N McLennan.

Edinburgh scorers – Tries: T Visser 2. Conversions: G Tonks. Penalties: G Tonks 2, T Heathcote.