Falcons 20 Sale Sharks 14

Friday 23 December 2022 Written by: Adam

Tries from Mateo Carreras and Sam Stuart plus another flawless goal-kicking display from Brett Connon helped turn the tide, with the hosts having hardly fired a shot in the opening 40 minutes.

Sale led 14-0 at half-time in a game largely dictated by the weather, with a deluge of rain necessitating a forward battle with no shortage of kicking.

The returning Carl Fearns made an early impact for the hosts by winning a jackal penalty on his own 22 to stem a Sharks attack – skipper Michael Young rising to the challenge of a Rob du Preez high bomb as the visitors turned to the air.

But it was the Sharks who drew first blood, kicking a penalty to the right corner where hooker Ewan Ashman scored from a blind-side pop from the back of a maul.

Rob du Preez added an impressive touchline conversion, both sides liberally deploying the boot to ball in horrendous handling conditions.

Repeated line-out steals from Sebastian de Chaves thwarted further Sharks incursions into Newcastle waters, but the sin-binning of home skipper Michael Young for tackling on the floor was quickly followed by the visitors’ second try when wing Tom O’Flaherty cut a diagonal running line to the left corner after their driving maul was halted.

Rob du Preez added another touchline conversion, the driving rain limiting the handling fluency of both sides in a game punctuated by errors and stoppages.

There was a brief threat of late excitement with the final play of the half when the Falcons were awarded a penalty five metres out after a Matias Moroni kick downfield, but the intervention of the video referee saw the penalty reversed for a high tackle, enabling Sale to find a safe touch.

That left them 14-0 up at the break, but the Falcons got themselves off the mark three minutes after the resumption when Brett Connon sent over a simple penalty from just left of centre.

The momentum continued with a string of penalties from an increasingly dominant set-piece, and it was brought to bear on the scoreboard when a lineout drive in the left corner provided the launch pad for Mateo Carreras to ghost through three tacklers around the fringes of a maul to dot down.

Connon’s conversion closed the gap to four, and Newcastle led just after the hour mark when repeated penalties in the Sale 22 saw replacement scrum-half Sam Stuart powering over from an advancing maul in the left corner.

The conversion put the Falcons three ahead going into the closing quarter, with the fly-half adding another three to the total when Logovi’i Mulipola’s rampaging run earned them a penalty 25 metres out in front.

It proved enough of a buffer to hold on for the win, with Connon kicking 100% for the fourth league game in succession.

**Newcastle Falcons:** 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Tom Penny, 11 Mateo Carreras, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Michael Young (captain, Sam Stuart, 55); 1 Adam Brocklebank (Logovi’i Mulipola, 55), 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Gary Graham, 7 Callum Chick, 8 Carl Fearns (Tom Marshall, 64).

**Scorers -** Tries: Mateo Carreras, Sam Stuart. Conversions: Brett Connon 2. Penalties: Brett Connon 2.

**Sale Sharks:** 15 Luke James, 14 Arron Reed, 13 Ryan Mills, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Gus Warr (Joe Simpson, 53); 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Ewan Ashman (Ethan Caine, 53), 3 Nic Schonert, 4 Cobus Wiese (Jean-Luc du Preez, 57), 5 Jonny Hill (Josh Beaumont, 53), 6 Jono Ross, 7 Ben Curry (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez.

**Scorers -** Tries: Ewan Ashman, Tom O’Flaherty. Conversions: Rob du Preez 2.

**Referee:** Adam Leal. **Attendance:** 5,824.