Newcastle Falcons 27 – 23 Brive

Saturday 23 January 2016 Written by: Adam

Simon Hammersley’s dramatic late try ensured Newcastle Falcons preserved their perfect home record in the European Challenge Cup, even if a quarter final place was ultimately beyond them.

Connacht’s home win over Enisei-STM ensured it was the Irish side who pushed through as the group winners, Newcastle having to be content with three bonus-point wins from three at Kingston Park in the competition.

Despite racing into an 18-point half time lead the result was far from certain, Poutasi Luafutu’s try and Thomas Laranjeira’s touchline conversion putting Brive a point ahead 12 minutes from time.

Cue Hammersley, the full-back producing a moment of individual brilliance at the death to seal a third consecutive home victory as he gathered his own grubber kick in the right corner.

Newcastle had roared into a 22-3 half time lead, putting themselves ahead as early as the fifth minute when Chris Harris’ clean break and Zach Kibirige’s offload allowed Hammersley a glimmer of space down the left-hand side.

The full back used all of his evasive powers to manufacture a try in the corner, having made an earlier line-break in an impressive start from the home side.

Showing line-speed and aggression in defence they cut down Brive’s thinking time, forcing errors from the French visitors as they sought revenge for the 13-9 loss suffered in the Correze region in November.

England Under-20s back row Callum Chick was among the stand-outs as the Ponteland product got his hands on the ball in attack, hitting his opponents hard and making yards from the base.

Kibirige was similarly sprightly in the back line, the hard midfield running of Juan Pablo Socino not allowing Brive’s defence to drift early.

The visitors’ task was made even more difficult when right wing Guillaume Namy was sent to the sin bin on the quarter mark for a midfield tip tackle, Newcastle kicking to the corner and adding three to their total when Brive’s midfield defence strayed offside in front of their own posts.

Thomas Laranjeira’s 40-metre penalty got the Frenchmen off the mark as they struggled for territory and possession, but it was the Falcons to the fore once again when Socino’s line-break and offload to Alex Tait handed the County Durham flyer a try.

Willis converted from in front, but the hosts were not done yet as they added a third try in what remained of the first half.

That came when Scott Lawson’s run set up a ruck in front of the posts, Michael Young needing no second invitation as the scrum half darted over.

Willis’ conversion extended the half-time lead to 19 points, but the second period proved to be slow going for a Newcastle side who allowed their focus to drop.

Brive grabbed the initiative right from the restart, fly half Nicolas Bezy scoring between the posts from centre Chris Tuatara’s line-break.

Laranjeira added the extras, his pair of penalties either side of the hour mark drawing the French visitors to within six points.

Still in with a sniff of the quarter finals they had the scent of blood, and found the try they were looking for when a five metre scrum and an inside pass enabled Luafutu to score down the right hand side.

Laranjeira slotted the conversion from wide out to snatch a slender lead, the Falcons spurred into action in a nailbiting climax.

Hammersley provided the x factor moment of individual brilliance, the Yorkshireman chipping to the right corner when there seemed nothing in front of him. Dextrously re-gathering his own kick, he sent the South Stand into raptures by grounding in the in goal.

His side’s defensive steel held out for the four minutes which remained, the Falcons now taking a three-game unbeaten home run into next Sunday’s resumption of Aviva Premiership action, when Harlequins are the visitors to Kingston Park Stadium.

**Newcastle Falcons**
S Hammersley, A Tait, C Harris, JP Socino, Z Kibirige, C Willis (A Powell, 59), M Young; A Rogers (B Harris, 44), S Lawson (G McGuigan, 56), A Foster (P Ryan, 56), M Botha, K Thompson (C Green, 25), M Wilson, W Welch (captain), C Chick.

Falcons scorers – Tries: S Hammersley 2, A Tait, M Young. Conversions: C Willis 2. Penalties: C Willis.

R Sola (A Mafi, 55), G Namy, T Laranjeira, C Tuatara, B Masilevu, N Bézy, JB Pejoine (T Iribaren, 52); D Lavergne (L Pointud, 55), F Da Ros (G Ribes, 55), D Jourdain, V Lebas, W Steenkamp, F Sanconnie (W Whetton, 56), P Luafutu, P Hauman.
Sin bin: G Naumy (19)

Brive scorers – Tries: N Bezy, T Luafutu. Conversions: T Laranjeira 2. Penalties: T Laranjeira 3.

Referee: L Hodges (Wales) Attendance: 3,803.