Callum Chick celebrates the winning try

Falcons 23 Montpellier 20

Sunday 21 October 2018

Newcastle Falcons snatched a heroic stoppage-time winner in a Heineken Champions Cup classic, Callum Chick scoring the crucial try with the clock well past 80 minutes.

Newcastle got themselves off to the ideal start, Sinoti Sinoti fielding an Aaron Cruden clearance which then found its way to Johnny Williams, the centre making a line-break in a passage which ended with a Falcons penalty from in front, Joel Hodgson slotting the simple three.

It got even better for the home side on five minutes when another midfield burst from Calum Green brought about a try for Gary Graham, the flanker dotting down in the left corner after a crafty over-head pass found him in space.

Hodgson sent over the conversion from wide out on the left as the Falcons reached double figures, the home crowd lapping up every second of the ambitious attacking rugby being played out in front of them.

Montpellier chipped away at Newcastle’s lead with two long-range penalties from Ruan Pienaar, Alex Tait almost replying with a second Falcons try when his line-break got him to within five metres of the line, only to be turned over in contact.

Mark Wilson went close in similar fashion with a run down the left which resulted in a Newcastle knock-on in the act of offloading, the horizontal rain arriving to make handling tricky for both sets of players.

Hodgson had to negotiate the driving cross-wind as well as the rain on 26 minutes when he sent over a penalty from the left hand side, Michael Young’s high, hanging box kick having forced the French side into an offside as they struggled to deal with Newcastle’s kick-chase.

The jackalling work of Kyle Cooper at the breakdown halted the attempted riposte from Montpellier as captain Louis Picamoles tried and failed to find a hole round the side of a ruck near the Falcons’ 22, the nerveless Hodgson extending his team’s lead to 10 with a superbly-struck penalty into the wind just after the half-hour.

That put the home side 16-6 up at the interval, Newcastle defending with power and cohesion during the opening exchanges of the second half but finally conceding points on 53 minutes when Pienaar sent over a simple penalty from a high tackle 10 metres out.

The South African repeated the trick on the hour mark to reduce the deficit to just four, and his side had the lead for the first time when they kicked a 68th minute penalty to the right corner and managed a try from the driving maul.

Pienaar’s missed conversion attempt left a cliffhanger of a scoreline with the Falcons a single point behind, but a penalty from in front of the posts drew that margin out to four, the blow compounded by the sin-binning of Logovi’i Mulipola for a high tackle with only six minutes left to play.

But this group of Falcons players simply do not know when they are beaten, as demonstrated by the decisive try with the clock well past 80 minutes, Callum Chick the hero with the winning try from a period of pick and go which lasted well over 40 phases.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Tom Penny (Chris Harris, 52), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young (Sonatane Takulua, 65); 1 Sami Mavinga (Adam Brocklebank, 60), 2 Kyle Cooper (George McGuigan, 40), 3 David Wilson (Logovi’i Mulipola, 49), 4 Calum Green (Will Witty, 49), 5 Glen Young, 6 Mark Wilson (captain), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Ryan Burrows (Callum Chick, 68).

Falcons scorers – Tries: Gary Graham, Callum Chick. Conversions: Joel Hodgson 2. Penalties: Joel Hodgson 3.

Montpellier: 15 Benjamin Fall, 14 Vincent Martin, 13 Yvan Reilhac, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Gabriel N'gandebe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Ruan Pienaar; 1 Mikheil Nariashvili (Grégory Fichten, 60), 2 Vincent Giudicelli (Romai Ruffenach, 47), 3 Levan Chilachava (Antoine Guillamon, 47), 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 5 Paul Willemse, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo (Kelian Galletier, 40), 7 Wiaan Liebenberg, 8 Louis Picamoles (captain).

Montpellier scorers – Tries: Paul Willemse. Penalties: Ruan Pienaar 5.

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland). Attendance: 6,383.

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