George McGuigan marked his return to fitness with a first-half hat-trick as a Newcastle Falcons XV defeated Stirling County on Saturday at Kingston Park Stadium.
The fit-again hooker announced his comeback from knee surgery with a barnstorming performance in which his side led 26-7 at the midway stage.
Newcastle led as early as the second minute, the home side kicking a penalty to the left corner where returning captain McGuigan scored from a textbook catch and drive.
Stirling County showed commendable resistance to halt the early Falcons momentum, but the home side regained their rhythm and found a second try on 22 minutes when Guy Graham wriggled out a tackle to score down the left, Connon converting.
A 15-metre driving maul brought McGuigan’s second and his team’s third try just before the half-hour, Connon again sending over the extras from wide out on the left as his team’s supremacy grew.
McGuigan completed his hat-trick on the half-hour when he hit a crash-ball line from Sam Lockwood’s pop pass in the left corner, Connon’s conversion ticking the scoreboard to 26.
Logovi’i Mulipola’s sin-binning handed the visitors some impetus towards the end of the opening half, and they found a deserved try down the left through scrum-half Caleb Korteweg, converted by Grant Hughes.
That cut the Falcons’ interval lead to 26-7, the home side restoring their 26-point buffer when Josh Basham collected a close-range offload to score a converted try down the left.
Freddie Lockwood added to that tally when he scored from a pick and go to the right of the posts, Connon’s conversion seeing the Falcons hit the 40 mark.
James Magee dived in for the next one at the left corner from a flowing backs move and followed it up in the final minute with a try down the other wing, rounding off a comprehensive victory.
Falcons XV: 15 Tim Swiel, 14 Will Haydon-Wood, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Joel Matavesi, 11 Morgan Passman, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti; 1 Sam Lockwood, 2 George McGuigan (captain), 18 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Rob Farrar, 5 Bailey Ransom, 6 Josh Basham, 7 Guy Graham, 8 Freddie Lockwood.
Replacements: 16 Conrad Cade, 17 Oscar Caudle, 19 Jamie Adamson (Durham University), 20 James Magee (Yorkshire Carnegie), 21 Charlie Wilson, 22 Callum Young (Jedforest).
Falcons scorers - Tries: George McGuigan 3, Guy Graham, Josh Basham, Freddie Lockwood, James Magee 2. Conversions: Brett Connon 5, Will Haydon-Wood.
Stirling County: 15 Ewan MacGarvie, 14 Logan Trotter, 13 Robbie Kent, 12 Landon Hayes, 11 Andrew McLean, 10 Grant Hughes, 9 Caleb Korteweg; 1 Billy Dineen, 2 Reyner Kennedy, 3 Murphy Walker, 4 Ollie Bartlett, 5 Cameron Henderson, 6 Bryce Robertson, 7 Thomas Gordon, 8 Matt Smith.
Replacements: 16 Adam Wood, 17 Charlie Brown, 18 James Pow, 19 Ross Bundy, 20 Dean Taylor-Menzies, 21 Euan Cunningham, 22 Craig Jardine, 23 Ollie Horne, 27 Bruce Sorbie.
Stirling County scorers - Tries: Caleb Korteweg. Conversions: Grant Hughes.