Newcastle Falcons’ A-Team battled back from 17 points down to claim victory over Worcester Cavaliers at Kingston Park Stadium on Monday afternoon.
Newcastle’s position as Northern Conference winners had already been confirmed going into this final round of regular-season action, the Falcons set to host Exeter Braves in the semi-final at Kingston Park Stadium.
The date, time and TV coverage of that game will be confirmed in due course, Newcastle trailing 17-0 at the midway stage against a hungry Worcester side.
A dominant home scrum won a succession of early penalties, but with neither side keen to be caught in possession in the wrong areas the result was a lot of territorial kicking during the opening exchanges.
A double hit from second-row partners Sean Robinson and Tevita Cavubati enabled a quick lineout which almost brought the opening try when Cavubati freed Robinson with an outrageous overhead pass, but referee John Meredith curbed the home celebrations by pulling play back for a previous indiscretion.
It was the Cavaliers who were celebrating on 16 minutes, left wing Alex Hearle scoring in the corner after returning a box kick through two attempted tackles for an unconverted try.
And despite the Falcons dominating field position the visitors had a second try to their name on 24 minutes, Springbok centre Wynand Olivier scoring in the right corner after an interception on the Worcester 22 was worked through three pairs of hands.
Van Breda added the touchline conversion, Worcester’s claims for a third try denied on 29 minutes when a driving maul crashed over, only to see play pulled back for offside.
A jackal turnover from Connor Collett on his own 22 relieved some of the pressure for the hosts as Worcester continued to grow into the game, but there was no stopping them on 37 minutes when Perry Humphreys hit a lovely diagonal line from a set scrum move to score in the left corner.
That took the Cavaliers’ lead to 17-0 at half-time, Newcastle ringing the changes and starting the second half with much more purpose.
That was certainly evident on 46 minutes when Jamie Blamire scored in the right corner from a floated pass by Pedro Bettencourt, a superb line from Will Montgomery helping generate the momentum.
The tide continued to turn only a minute later when Zach Kibirige raced 30 metres to score in the same corner, Tim Swiel’s touchline conversion reducing the deficit to five.
A barrage of penalties in the Worcester 22 eventually drew the sides level when Adam Radwan scored in the left corner from another long, looping pass, the hosts having secured line-out ball in the right corner before moving the ball wide.
The Falcons continued to dominate, taking the lead for the first time on 72 minutes when Kibirige cut infield to score down the right after a good line from George Wacokecoke helped open up the Cavaliers’ defence.
That brought with it the four-try bonus point, a feat Worcester matched when Matti Williams crossed in the left corner.
Crucially, the missed conversion left Newcastle two points ahead, all doubt removed when a stunning solo score from Radwan in the 80th minute, converted by Swiel, put the home side into an unassailable position, even when Luke Baldwin scored from an interception at the death.
Newcastle Falcons A: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Pedro Bettencourt, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Kyle Cooper, 3 Trevor Davison, 4 Sean Robinson, 5 Tevita Cavubati, 6 Will Montgomery, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Simon Uzokwe.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Matty Woodward (Newcastle University), 18 Oscar Caudle (Junior Academy), 19 Glen Young, 20 Rob Farrar, 21 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti, 22 George Wacokecoke, 23 Tim Swiel.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Jamie Blamire, Zach Kibirige 2, Adam Radwan 2. Conversions: Tim Swiel 3.
Worcester Cavaliers: 15 Scott van Breda, 14 Perry Humphreys13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Will Butler (captain), 11 Alex Hearle, 10 Gareth Simpson, 9 Jonny Arr; 1 Jack Cosgrove, 2 Isaac Miller, 3 Farai Mudariki, 4 Tom Dodd, 5 Pierce Phillips, 6 Carl Kirwan, 7 Matti Williams, 8 Matt Cox.
Replacements: 16 Llewellyn Phillips-Taylor, 17 Alex Reid, 18 Joe Morris, 19 William Thomas-Hall, 20 Sam Miller, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Noah Heward, 23 Mason Tonks.
Worcester scorers - Tries: Alex Hearle, Wynand Olivier, Perry Humphreys, Matti Williams, Luke Baldwin. Conversions: Scott van Breda.