Falcons 26 Bedford Blues 16

Friday 15 September 2023 Written by: Mark Smith

Newcastle Falcons had to graft for their full five-point haul on Friday as they continued their winning start to the Premiership Rugby Cup by outlasting Bedford Blues.

Trailing with 20 minutes left to play and leaving it until five minutes from time to chalk up the four-try bonus point, the home side are now two from two going into Friday’s visit of Sale Sharks.

The Falcons led 12-3 at half-time but their defensive resolve was on show in the opening exchanges as Bedford kicked a penalty to the right corner only to be turned over at the resulting maul.

The Blues took the lead through a Louis Grimoldby penalty just right of centre, but the home side hit back almost instantly when a break from Louis Brown and Matias Orlando earned a penalty which they kicked to the corner.

From the resulting line-out the Falcons had their first try at Kingston Park for the season – hooker Ollie Fletcher sneaking round the blind-side of a ruck in the left corner to dot down.

Josh Thomas curled in the touchline conversion, but Bedford were within a whisker of the lead when a ball-and-all tackle from Louis Brown denied them a try down the left – the full-back wrapping up a Blues attacker from a long, looping pass.

Grimoldby’s second attempt at a penalty for the Blues was less successful than his first as he pushed his effort wide of the posts from 40 metres out in front, and Newcastle led by nine on the half-hour.

Zach Kerr was the man to score it – the Ulsterman playing a neat one-two with Adam Radwan down the right as he collected an inside offload to notch the five points.

Thomas’ touchline conversion was fractionally wide as his side led 12-3 at the break, and the visitors chipped three off that margin early into the second period when Grimoldby slotted a simple penalty from in front on the 22.

The fly-half slotted his third penalty on 50 minutes to reduce the Falcons’ lead to three, and the Blues snatched the lead shortly after when Sean French scored a converted breakaway try down the right.

Newcastle battered away in the Bedford 22 in the quest to regain their lead, and after winning a string of penalties the pressure finally told when a close-range ruck down the right saw Sebastian de Chaves taking the ball at first receiver before ploughing over in the corner.

Replacement Louie Johnson slotted the conversion from out wide, and he did so again just six minutes from time when Adam Radwan wrapped up the four-try bonus point.

It was a proper predator’s try with Radwan chasing down a lost cause of a kick, finding himself in the right spot when the catcher knocked on the ball and hacking behind the last man before acrobatically grounding the ball in-goal for a ten-point lead.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Louis Brown (Ben Redshaw, 66), 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Zach Kerr, 12 Matias Orlando (captain), 11 Iwan Stephens, 10 Josh Thomas (Louie Johnson, 66), 9 Josh Barton (Ben Douglas, 71); 1 Phil Brantingham (Adam Brocklebank, 50), 2 Ollie Fletcher (Michael van Vuuren, 66), 3 Richard Palframan (Murray McCallum, 51), 4 Tim Cardall, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Ollie Leatherbarrow (Guy Pepper, 45), 7 Marcus Tiffen, 8 John Kelly (Freddie Lockwood, 56).

Scorers – Tries: Ollie Fletcher, Zach Kerr, Sebastian de Chaves, Adam Radwan. Conversions: Josh Thomas, Louie Johnson 2.

Bedford Blues: 15 Matt Worley, 14 Seán French (Michael le Bourgeois, 25), 13 Ethan Grayson, 12 Jordan Venter, 11 Pat Tapley, 10 Louis Grimoldby, 9 James Lennon; 1 Jamie Jack (Joey Conway, 50), 2 Jacob Fields (James Fish, 50), 3 Bryan O’Connor (Oisin Heffernan, 50), 4 Robin Williams, 5 Alex Woolford, 6 Luke Frost, 7 Kieran Curran, 8 Joe Howard

Scorers – Tries: Sean French. Conversions: Louis Grimoldby. Penalties: Louis Grimoldby 3.

Referee: George Selwood. Attendance: 3,117.