Match Report

Sale Sharks - 28

Newcastle Falcons - 31

Friday 08th Mar 2024 | KO 19:45 | Salford City Stadium

Newcastle Falcons started the Steve Diamond era with victory on Friday night in Salford, battling back for a hard-earned result at northern rivals Sale Sharks.

A full-blooded contest belied its ‘friendly’ status, with the Sharks edging a keenly-fought first half by 21-14 in a game which saw no quarter given by either side throughout.

The hosts led after six minutes when Sale kicked a penalty to the left corner, with hooker Tommy Taylor driven over from a well-constructed maul.

Fly-half Rob du Preez slotted the conversion, and he did so again from the other side of the field on 14 minutes when Tom O’Flaherty’s winding counter-attack saw Raffi Quirke collecting an offload to score in the right corner.

Newcastle grew into the game and enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure which drew four penalties in the home 22, Adam Radwan going close to scoring in the right corner and repeated mauls falling just short of the line.

The Sharks’ repeated infringements eventually forced referee Hamish Smales to issue a yellow card for killing the ball at a ruck near their own line, but the Falcons could not convert their barrage of territorial dominance on the scoreboard until the 30th minute.

That was when a flowing period of handing ended with a try for Sam Cross in the left corner, the Welshman showing great handling and composure to catch an offload after a short-side dart.

Brett Connon added the conversion, but Sale restored their 14-pont buffer within a minute of the restart when winger Arron Reed pumped his legs in contact to score a converted try down the right.

Newcastle kept their momentum going, however, driven on in no small part by the incessant quick tapping of scrum-half Sam Stuart.

It was from one such snipe in the final minute of the first half that Sale picked up their second yellow card, and the Falcons made the extra man count from the very next play when Jamie Blamire powered over from a close-range pick and go.

Connon’s second conversion cut Sale’s half-time lead to 21-14, and they almost drew level in the early exchanges of the second half when Jamie Blamire went close from a well-worked set line-out move.

The visitors finally earned parity on 51 minutes when Freddie Lockwood’s impressive leg-drive in contact saw him powering over, rewarding a period of pressure which saw repeated penalties conceded by the home side.

Newcastle led for the first time just after the hour mark when replacement centre Rory Jennings powered over on a crash-ball line, his side having hammered away in the Sharks’ 22.

Josh Thomas added the conversion, and even when Josh Barton was sin-binned for offside at a defensive ruck they still kept up their momentum – George Wacokecoke going close after breaking from deep inside his own half.

Thomas stroked over a simple penalty to extend the Falcons’ lead to ten points after Tom Penny was held up over the line, but Albert Bradshaw’s late try and Tom Curtis’ touchline conversion ensured a nervy last two minutes as Newcastle held on for the win.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Elliott Obatoyinbo, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Eduardo Bello, 4 Philip van der Walt, 5 Sebastian de Chaves, 6 Freddie Lockwood, 7 Sam Cross, 8 Callum Chick (captain).

Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Murray McCallum, Richard Palframan, John Kelly, John Hawkins, Josh Bainbridge, Guy Pepper, Ollie Leatherbarrow, Josh Barton, Josh Thomas, Louie Johnson, Iwan Stephens, George Wacokecoke, Zach Kerr, Rory Jennings, Tom Penny, Louis Brown.

Scorers – Tries: Sam Cross, Jamie Blamire, Freddie Lockwood, Rory Jennings. Conversions: Brett Connon 3, Josh Thomas. Penalties: Josh Thomas.

Sale Sharks: 15 Joe Carpenter, 14 Tom O’Flaherty, 13 Sam James, 12 Rekeiti Ma’asi-White, 11 Arron Reed, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Raffi Quirke; 1 Ross Harrison, 2 Tommy Taylor, 3 Nick Schonert, 4 Ben Bamber, 5 Josh Beaumont, 6 Cam Neild, 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 Will Riley.  

Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Ralph McEachran, Adam Aigbokhae, Tye Raymont, James Harper, Tom Burrow, Ciaran Booth, Tristan Woodman, Nye Thomas, Tom Curtis, Osian Roberts, Obi Ene, Telusa Veainu, Albert Bradshaw.

Scorers – Tries: Tommy Taylor, Raffi Quirke, Arron Reed, Albert Bradshaw. Conversions: Rob du Preez 3, Tom Curtis.

Referee: Hamish Smales.