Match Report

- - 11

Newcastle Falcons -

Friday 13th Nov 2015

Newcastle Falcons ground out a well-deserved losing bonus point from Friday’s European Challenge Cup opener in Brive, a much-changed starting XV delivering a robust and energetic performance.

Mark Wilson marked his return to fitness by captaining the team and playing the full 80 minutes, Tom Catterick kicking three penalties on a night when home wing Malakai Radikedike scored the game’s only try.

The visitors could consider themselves unlucky not to have taken more from a match in which they played a full part, players seizing their chance having been given game time in the senior arena.

Sean Robinson and Dan Temm were among the many willing workers to catch the eye, full-back Craig Willis breaking the line in attack and Belisario Agulla causing problems for the defence with his eye for a gap.

Marcus Watson’s desire to seek and exploit space had the home defence busy, Richard Mayhew carrying hard while Catterick searched for holes in a highly-organised Brive rearguard.

Right from the start the Falcons’ intent was made clear, Chris Harris and Tom Penny breaking from inside their own 22 on a night when the visitors kept it in the hands.

Wilson and Watson combined well down the right as the Cumbrian put the winger away on a one-on-one, chipping past the last man but seeing his kick turn into touch.

The Falcons’ defensive system showed progress with holes few and far between, though Brive managed to find one on 14 minuets when a line-out on the 22 delivered a try from first phase.

With back ball taken off the top by the home team, an inside pop put a runner through a gap, isolating the last man and putting Radikedike away for a walk-in.

Fly-half Nicolas Bezy converted, having missed an earlier penalty from long range, and took his side to double figures with a penalty from the 22 just before the half hour.

Bezy and Catterick traded a further penalty apiece to complete the first-half scoring, the Newcastle stand-off chipping into Brive’s red zone in pursuit of a gap which the hosts quickly filled.

The second period was a similarly physical affair, the Falcons’ improved defensive resilience tested to the full as Brive hammered away round the fringes.

The home team’s 13-3 half-time lead was shaved by six via two Catterick penalties on 45 and 54 minutes, grafter Robinson within a whisker of a try in the right corner as the final pass just failed to stick.

Brive’s decision to go for broke rather than taking the three on offer twice failed to pay off, the French side booting a pair of kickable penalties into the corner in search of greater gains.

But a rigid Newcastle defence held out, forcing turnovers on both occasions, Rob Hawkins and Ben Harris in the thick of the action in impressing from the bench.

The Falcons pressed hard for a try in the dying stages as they enjoyed more than their fair share of ball in prime position, but could just not find the crucial in-road

In the end a hard-earned losing bonus point was all they went away with, but the squad were rightly buoyed by a much-improved performance which showed the depth now at Dean Richards’ disposal.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: C Willis, M Watson, T Penny, C Harris (D Marshall, 69), B Agulla, T Catterick, M Young (R Tipuna, 56); A Rogers (B Harris, 45), G McGuigan (R Hawkins, 56), T Vea, S Robinson, K Thompson (M Botha, 63), R Mayhew, D Temm, M Wilson (captain).

Falcons scorers – Tries: . Conversions: . Penalties: T Catterick 3.

BRIVE: R Sola (A Niesen, 74), E Radikedike, A Septar (B Petre, 50), C Tuatara-Morrison, B Masilevu, N Bezy, B Duhalde (J Pejoine, 37); D Lavergne (G Shvelidze, 55), T Acquier (G Ribes, 60), G Jgenti (Y Tuncer, 55), V Lebas (P Marais, 34), W Steenkamp, S Hireche (captain, H Briatte, 65)), P Luafutu, W Whetton.

Brive scorers – Tries: M Radikedike. Conversions: N Bezy. Penalties: N Bezy.

Referee: L Hodges (Wales)