Match Report

- - 21

Newcastle Falcons -

Saturday 01st Nov 2014

There was guts but ultimate no glory as Newcastle Falcons went down fighting in their LV Cup opener at Northampton on Saturday.

The Saints battled back from an early try down to take all five points in an entertaining encounter, one which showcased the depth of both squads as the Falcons’ four-game winning run drew to a close.

There was barely time to draw breath in an action-packed first half, Newcastle trailing 22-16 at the midway stage but showing no shortage of intent.

Alesana Tuilagi marked his comeback appearance with the sort of destructive running which made him one of the most feared attackers in the Premiership during his time with Leicester, the Samoan giant leaving his imprint on a string of defenders as he smashed his way over the gain-line and beyond.

That forward momentum saw the visitors taking a well-deserved lead on five minutes when Uili Kolo’ofai’s open-field running and support work from Mike Blair had Newcastle in behind the defence, skipper Andy Saull breaking free before delivering the scoring pass to Tom Catterick down the right.

Rory Clegg converted, the sides level again on nine minutes when sprightly full-back Tom Collins sped to the try-line after a right-to-left transfer throough the hands.

Clegg and Will Hooley traded a penalty apiece as the end-to-end pattern continued, Kolo’ofai forced off injured as Dom Barrow entered the fray early in a re-shaped back-row.

Clegg’s second penalty nosed the visitors in front, but when Alesana Tuilagi was sin-binned for his coming together with Collins the Saints profited from the extra man.
Running in a pair of tries during the 10-minute window, they were ahead from a rolling maul in the right corner when Teimana Harrison steered the set-piece over the line.

The pain got worse for the Falcons when a fleeting attack saw hooker Mike Haywood dotting down in the left corner, Jamie Elliott’s run down the opposite wing forcing a defensive scramble from which Newcastle never fully recovered.

Clegg chipped three off the deficit when a penalty on the 22 rewarded some enterprising attack, Mike Blair and Jamie Helleur using a combination of brain and brawn to get themselves in behind the line.

It was to be Helleur’s last act as the combative Samoan made way for Juan Pablo Socino at half-time, a scrappy beginning to the second half seeing Newcastle’s scrum and maul defence given a good examination as Scott MacLeod repelled a catch-and-drive.

The hosts committed more numbers to the breakdown in a bid to stop Newcastle at source, Catterick forced to scurry back and win a foot-race with Collins to a loose ball in goal as Northampton grubbered ahead.

A solid scrum gave Dean Richards’ side a firm foundation, but the Saints’ counter-attacking speed had them further ahead when Collins’ diagonal run saw the full-back scurry home from 50 metres out.

Hooley converted from in front, Tuilagi’s hard running keeping the visitors in it with a meaty in-field carry but the home side’s defensive ruck work averting the danger.
Scrum-half Andy Davies injected some more pace for the closing quarter in a game which had began to slow down, the Falcons taking a scrum when handed a kickable penalty 10 metres out and failing to capitalise on it.

Danny Barnes’ line-break from a flat midfield pass and Tuilagi’s support running almost delivered a try with 10 minutes to go, the Samoan knocking-on as he dived for the line.
But there was no stopping Socino with eight minutes to spare, the Argentinean supporting Davies’ quickly-tapped penalty for a well-taken try.

Clegg converted to reduce the gap to six, Hooley’s second penalty crucially taking the gap to nine when the fly-half drilled over from 40 metres out in front.
That was enough to remove any doubt with the clock ticking down, Northampton adding a final flurry when Howard Packman scored in the left corner but Newcastle still emerging with credit for their performance.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: L Smith (S Hammersley, 55), T Catterick, D Barnes, J Helleur (JP Socino, 40), Al Tuilagi, R Clegg, M Blair (A Davies, 63); R Vickers (A Rogers, 67), S Lawson, S Wilson (O Tomaszczyk, 67), C Green, S MacLeod (S Robinson, 56), D Temm, A Saull (captain), U Kolo’ofai (D Barrow, 12).

Sin-bin: A Tuilagi (27).

Falcons scorers – Tries: T Catterick, JP Socino. Conversions: R Clegg 2. Penalties: R Clegg 3.

NORTHAMPTON SAINTS: T Collins, J Elliott, T Stephenson, D Waldouck (H Mallinder, 61), H Packman, W Hooley, J Hodgson (K Fotuali’i, 55); E Waller (D Hobbs-Awoyemi, 56), M Haywood (R McMillan, 66), G Denman (T Mercey, 56), A Woolford, C Day, P Dowson (captain), T Harrison (B Nutley, 52), J Fisher.
Saints scorers – Tries: T Collins 2, T Harrison, M Haywood, H Packman. Conversions: W Hooley 3. Penalties: W Hooley 2.

Referee: A Jackson. Attendance: 13,362.