Newcastle Falcons 29 – 40 Newport Gwent Dragons

Saturday 17 January 2015 Written by: Adam

A second half fightback delivered a four-try bonus point for Newcastle Falcons and ensured their quest for a European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final place will go down to the wire.

Next weekend’s game in Romania now assumes greater significance after a ten-try thriller in which both sides more than played their part.

A nightmare of a first half saw the Falcons 35-3 down after shipping five tries, three of them coming with Richard Mayhew in the sin bin after the flanker was given a ten minute breather midway through the half.

By that stage the Dragons already had a try on the board through Tyler Morgan, the centre hitting an outside line to score in the left corner after a Newcastle line-out on their own 22 saw possession conceded.

Full-back Simon Prydie made no mistake with the conversion, Newcastle enjoying the better of the scrummaging exchanges as Tom Catterick slotted an early penalty on the back of that dominance.

Eager ruck work from Mayhew forced a turnover near his own line as the visitors attacked, but the big Kiwi’s sin bin turned the tide against the Falcons as a close-range attack down the left hand side prompted referee John Lacey to send him to the side-lines.

The ensuing line-out delivered a penalty try for the Dragons, and they were 21-3 up on the quarter mark when Wales lock Andrew Coombs was driven over from a maul down the right.

Prydie kept on firing over the conversions, doing so again on 25 minutes when left-wing Hallam Amos snuck inside the corner post despite an attempted tackle seeing the decision sent to the video referee.

That delivered the four try bonus point, the size of Newcastle’s task getting even steeper when Amos’ cheeky offload out of the back of the hand put skipper Rynard Landman away for number five.

The home side at least ended the half with a spell of territory and possession as captain Andy Saull stripped a turnover, Adam Powell and Simon Hammersley both making breaks.

With a second-half mountain to climb the Falcons emerged a different side from the changing room, crossing the try-line only three minutes after the resumption through interval replacement Juan Pablo Socino.

A powerful driving maul in the right corner saw the ball worked wide to the Argentinean centre, who cut against the grain and wrong-footed his man to score.

Catterick converted from just left of the posts, Ruki Tipuna again getting in behind the defence with a scorching break from the base of the scrum while Chris York and Chris Harris made yards in broken field.

Harris managed to turn the pressure into further points when he chased down a grubber kick to the left corner, beating the blitz defence to the ball and stepping the last man to dot down.

Catterick slotted the touchline conversion with ease, Harris making further incursions behind the Dragons’ defensive line on the back of quick ball as Tipuna got the team moving.

It was therefore against the run of play that the visitors regained their scoring form, Amos grabbing his seond after sprinting down the left-hand side.

Rory Clegg emerged from the bench for the closing quarter, the fly-half playing a part in putting Tipuna away for another run down the left which forced the Dragons’ scrambling defence into action.

It was a fellow replacement who barged over the Falcons’ third try, however, club captain Will Welch dotting down from close range after Kieran Brookes had gone within a whisker from a midfield charge.

Clegg converted to narrow the deficit to 16, Saull providing the four try bonus point and a glimmer of hope when he crossed from a driving maul down the left.

But with time against them the home side could just not force another try, the Dragons taking charge of Pool C as the Falcons head to Romania next weekend needing a result.

**Newcastle Falcons**
S Hammersley, T Penny (JP Socino, 40), A Powell, C Harris (A Davies, 67), A Tait, T Catterick (R Clegg, 62), R Tipuna; A Rogers (E Fry, 62), G McGuigan (R Hawkins, 69), K Brookes (A Rogers, 78), S Robinson (W Witty, 69), K Thompson, R Mayhew, A Saull (captain), C York (W Welch, 60).
Sin bin: R Mayhew (18).
Falcons scorers – Tries: JP Socino, C Harris, W Welch, A Saull. Conversions: T Catterick 2, R Clegg. Penalties: T Catterick.

**Newport Gwent Dragons**
T Prydie, M Pewtner, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos, D Jones (A O’Brien, 56), J Evans (L Jones, 60); P Price, H Gustafson (E Dee, 69), B Harris (L Fairbrother, 65), A Coombs (C Hill, 64), R Landman (captain), J Thomas (T Faletau, 53), N Cudd, L Evans.
Dragons scorers – Tries: T Morgan, Penalty try, A Coombs, H Amos 2, R Landman. Conversions: T Prydie 5. Penalties: .

Referee: J Lacey (Ire). Attendance: 3,280.