Match Report

Newcastle Falcons - 19

Montpellier - 24

Sunday 10th Dec 2023 | KO 15:15 | Kingston Park

There was drama right until the end but Newcastle Falcons’ EPCR Challenge Cup campaign began with a home defeat to French side Montpellier on Sunday.

A late try from Jamie Blamire threatened a Falcons victory as he rumbled over from a driving maul, but the visitors held out for a dogged victory.

The hosts began the game showing an intention to play, with their swift offloading game seeing lock John Hawkins breaking down the left, where he was supported by Iwan Stephens and Matias Orlando.

The move did not deliver any points as Newcastle knocked on just a few metres short of the try-line, and Montpellier were more clinical with their opening opportunity for points on 14 minutes.

Playing advantage for an offside in the home 22, flanker Alexandre Becognee profited from a close-range pick-and-go to score near the posts, fly-half Louis Carbonel adding the simple conversion.

The Falcons kept plugging away and enjoyed a foray down the short-side when Bryan Byrne and Murray McCallum worked a neat trick play at the front of a midfield line-out, only for play to be knocked on during the ensuing passage of offloading.

The French side were once again more ruthless when given a sniff of a score, with winger Ben Lam regaining his footing to dot down their second try following a midfield line-break.

Carbonel fired wide with the conversion from right of centre, leaving his side leading 12-0 at the midway point – a total to which they added just two minutes into the second half.

Captain Anthony Bouthier was the man to inflict the blow, with the captain gliding in at the left corner for an unconverted try.

Home skipper Callum Chick responded for the Falcons on 50 minutes when the TMO awarded a try in the right corner, the No.8 grounding impressively in heavy traffic after a short-side play saw Adam Radwan feeding the ball his way.

Momentum continued to swing the Falcons’ way, and they reduced the deficit to just five points before the hour mark when Iwan Stephens scored in the left corner – the winger chasing down Oli Spencer’s kick ahead after build-up play from Ben Redshaw and Rory Jennings opened up the gap.

But Montpellier grabbed hold of the game again an had the bonus point through Englishman Sam Simmonds, with the No.8 supporting a Carbonel line-break to cross for a converted try.

The Falcons kept on going and enjoyed a 50-metre line-break from Adam Radwan which saw wing George Bridge sin-binned for killing the attack illegally, and from the resulting penalty Zach Kerr was denied a try by the TMO for foot-in-touch near the left corner post.

There was no stopping Jamie Blamire, however, when the hooker rumbled over for a try from a maul in the left corner, Louie Johnson adding the extras to set up a grandstand finish.

Montpellier had just enough to hang on, however, with the Falcons’ European campaign starting with a losing bonus point.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Ben Redshaw, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Oliver Spencer, 12 Matias Orlando (Louie Johnson, 47), 11 Iwan Stephens (Zach Kerr, 65), 10 Rory Jennings, 9 James Elliott (Hugh O’Sullivan, 65); 1 Phil Brantingham (Adam Brocklebank, 65), 2 Bryan Byrne (Jamie Blamire, 56), 3 Murray McCallum (Mark Tampin, 65), 4 John Hawkins, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Freddie Lockwood (Ollie Leatherbarrow, 64), 7 Sam Cross, 8 Callum Chick (captain).

Scorers – Tries: Callum Chick, Iwan Stephens, Jamie Blamire. Conversions: Rory Jennings, Louie Johnson.

Montpellier: 15 Anthony Bouthier (captain), 14 George Bridge, 13 Thomas Darmon, 12 Auguste Cadot (Pierre Lucas, 46), 11 Ben Lam (Masivesi Dakuwaqa, 60), 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Leo Coly; 1 Grégory Fichten (Karl Tu’inukuafe, 49) , 2 Vano Karkadze, 3 Harry Williams, 4 Marco Tauleigne, 5 Tyler Duguid (Bastien Chalureau, 61), 6 Clement Doumenc, 7 Alexandre Becognee, 8 Sam Simmonds.

Scorers – Tries: Alexandre Becognee, Ben Lam, Anthony Bouthier, Sam Simmonds. Conversions: Louis Carbonel 2.

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Scotland). Attendance: 3,802.