Ampthill - 17
Newcastle Falcons - 40
Newcastle Falcons began their Premiership Rugby Cup campaign with the full five points at Ampthill on Saturday, but were made to work for it by their dogged hosts in the baking Bedfordshire sun.
New head coach Alex Codling’s men led just 12-7 at the midway stage but it was the home side who drew first blood on 11 minutes, working a short-side move down the left where Josh Skelcey dotted down – Gwyn Parks slotting the conversion from out wide.
An early injury to debutant Cameron Hutchison compounded the setback, but the Falcons got themselves on the board midway through the opening half when Ben Stevenson raced in at the left corner.
It stemmed from a line-out on the right, with a slick transfer along the back line seeing Elliott Obatoyinbo deliver the scoring pass after drawing in the last defender.
The missed conversion from wide out left the visitors trailing by two, but they had the lead on the half-hour when a charging run from Freddie Lockwood saw the No.8 wriggling out of a tackle to dot down in the left corner.
Brett Connon added the extras, but his attempt to bite off an extra three with the final play of the half saw his long-range penalty going just wide.
That left Newcastle 12-7 up at the interval, but their advantage was cut to two points just a minute into the second half when Parks slammed over a penalty from 45 metres out in front.
The Falcons found their stride on 45 minutes when Iwan Stephens scored down the left-hand side, collecting an inside chip from Stevenson after Obatoyinbo’s floated pass got the ball to the space.
Connon slotted the conversion, and did so again just three minutes later when Stephens ran in the bonus point try.
This time scoring in the right corner, the former rugby league man rounded off an 80-metre move started by Obatoyinbo, who fielded a kick in his own 22 before beating two men and feeding Penny, who laid on the scoring pass.
Bryan Byrne was held up over the try-line from a well-constructed maul on his debut, but a maul from a similar position just after the hour mark saw replacement Guy Pepper scoring with his first touch – the flanker returning from a nine-month injury lay-off.
Just when Newcastle looked to have total control a loose pass ten metres out saw home full-back Tom Bacon intercepting and going the length for a converted try eight minutes from time, but by then the result was beyond his side.
Debutant Kiran McDonald responded quickly for the visitors with a well-taken pick-and-go try to reward forward pressure in the right corner, with their second-half efforts seeing them well ahead at the final whistle.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo (Josh Barton,58), 14 Iwan Stephens, 13 Tom Penny (captain), 12 Cameron Hutchison (Josh Thomas, 14), 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Hugh O’Sullivan; 1 Adam Brocklebank (Phil Brantingham, 55), 2 Bryan Byrne (Ollie Fletcher, 65), 3 Murray McCallum (Richard Palframan, 50), 4 Tim Cardall (Kiran McDonald, 50), 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Philip van der Walt (John Kelly, 50), 7 Josh Bainbridge (Guy Pepper, 60), 8 Freddie Lockwood.
Scorers – Tries: Ben Stevenson, Freddie Lockwood, Iwan Stephens 2,Guy Pepper, Kiran McDonald. Conversions: Brett Connon 5.
Ampthill: 15 Tom Bacon, 14 Jack Spittle, 13 Oli Morris, 12 Ewan Greenlaw, 11 Josh Skelcey, 10 Gwyn Parks, 9 Charlie Bracken; 1 Jasper McGuire, 2 Syd Blackmore, 3 Dom Hardman, 4 Iestyn Rees, 5 Cai Devine (Kaden Pearce-Paul, 33), 6 Sam Asotasi, 7 Josh Smart, 8 Morgan Strong.
Scorers – Tries: Josh Skelcey, Tom Bacon. Conversions: Gwyn Parks 2. Penalties: Gwyn Parks.
Referee: Alex Thomas.