Match Report

- - 20

Newcastle Falcons - 0

Friday 05th Dec 2014

Newcastle Falcons withstood a late Stade Francais rally to maintain their 100% record in Europe with a 30-23 triumph.

A massive scrum win against the head in the final minute allayed any fears with the star-studded French side still within striking distance of a draw, leaving Newcastle well clear at the top of Pool C ahead of Thursday’s return leg in Paris.

Despite the late flutter the home side were well worth their win on a freezing cold night, earning a 14-9 half-time lead after tries from Chris Harris and Simon Hammersley. Sean Robinson and Noah Cato added to that tally to bag a four-try bonus, the home crowd being made to wait until the very last play on a night of high drama.

The early signs had been promising as Newcastle kept the ball in hand, Alex Tait and Kieran Brookes among those charging upfield in a show of attacking intent.

Despite a pair of Tom Catterick penalties missing the target the fly-half was pulling the strings in the loose, centre Harris put away for the game’s opening try on 23 minutes when his outside break to the left corner saw the last man swatted away.

The recalled Rotherham loan star had entered the game as the tournament’s top tackler, and was every bit as robust in defence as he helped repel a Stade back-line containing Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn, Australia wing Digby Ioane and New Zealand rugby league star Krisnan Inu.

Steyn slotted three first-half penalties from three to keep the scoreboard moving, but the wall of maroon from Newcastle’s much-changed side was proving impenetrable.

At the other end Newcastle were having no such struggles, Catterick’s diagonal run helping prise open the Stade defence for Hammersley to collect an inside ball 40 metres from home. The full-back sped down the right tramlines to dot the ball down, Catterick stepping up to smash the touchline conversion.

Despite the backs getting most of the glory the Falcons’ pack had been grafting away efficiently, Robinson and Dan Temm both finding gaps in the loose while England prop Brookes was among those putting in a big shift at the set-piece.

Warren Fury’s quick service kept the whole machine ticking over, although the Falcons found themselves behind after just three minutes of the second half.

That was when a moment of individual brilliance from Steyn got the visitors out of their own 22, the South African chipping over the rush defence and collecting his own kick to break free.

Even when Newcastle turned the ball over the danger did not disappear, former France scrum-half Julien Tomas collecting an interception pass to score in the right corner.

Steyn calmly slotted the conversion for a one-point advantage, the see-saw pattern continuing throughout a half in which neither side was never more than a converted try ahead.

Jono Ross’s sin-binning on his Stade Francais debut opened the door for Catterick to chip over a 45th minute penalty to nose Newcastle in front, the outlook becoming even brighter when Robinson dummied and went for a try in the left corner.

The blind-side flanker showed a fair turn of pace as he blazed a path to the line, the missed conversion doing little to ease the tension as the Parisians remained within a score.

Inu’s growing involvement in the game manifested itself in a well-taken try down the right as Stade refused to lie down, the Kiwi rugby league man seeing Steyn add the extras for another one-point lead.

Catterick’s penalty after the hour mark had the Falcons back in front, and when Cato sped in for try number four down the left the bonus point was secured.

Still the drama would not subside, the wide conversion attempt leaving the Frenchmen within a converted try going into a furiously-contested closing 10 minutes.

The pressure was unrelenting on a Newcastle side showing 13 changes from the league encounter with Sale, but the resilience was unquestionable as last-minute scrum pressure was thwarted.

The cheer from the South Stand said it all as an eight-man shove saw Stade pushed off their own ball, a relieving clearance capping off a fine night’s work ahead of what promises to be dramatic return leg in the French capital.

**Newcastle Falcons**
S Hammersley (R Clegg, 48), A Tait, A Powell (captain), C Harris, N Cato, T Catterick, W Fury (R Tipuna, 51); E Fry, G McGuigan, K Brookes (A Rogers, 61), K Thompson (D Barrow, 80), S MacLeod, S Robinson, D Temm, C York.

Falcons scorers – Tries: C Harris, S Hammersley, S Robinson, N Cato. Conversions: T Catterick 2. Penalties: T Catterick 2.

**Stade Francais**
P Williams, J Sinzelle, M Bosman, K Inu, D Ioane, M Steyn, J Tomas (J Fillol, 59); S Botta (R Frou, 65), A del Malmanche (Z Zhvania, 61), D Kubriashvili (A Oleon, 55), P Gabrillagues, G Mostert (J Nibert, 65), N Garrault, P Rabadan (captain), J Ross.
Sin bin: J Ross (43)

Stade Francais scorers – Tries: J Tomas, K Inu. Conversions: M Steyn 2. Penalties: M Steyn 3.

Referee: M Mitrea (Italy). Attendance: 4,089.