Newcastle Falcons secured safe passage to the semi-finals of the Premiership Rugby Shield with two games to spare, running riot against Sale Jets on Monday night at Kingston Park Stadium.
Leading 45-0 at half-time, Newcastle reinforced their supremacy at the top of the Northern Conference with just one defeat from their eight outings.
Less than a minute had elapsed before the scoring began, Adam Radwan cutting inside down the left after slick hands from Tim Swiel and Joel Matavesi worked the ball wide to the space.
Swiel added the conversion from in front, and the home side were two tries up on nine minutes when superb anticipation of a Sale pass enabled Zach Kibirige to race 60 metres down the right wing for an interception try, again converted by Swiel.
Prop Rodney Ah You was among the many willing carriers on his debut as the Falcons played at high speed, skipper Alex Dunbar running some no-nonsense midfield lines to help create space for others.
The third try arrived on 19 minutes when lock Glen Young charged down a Sale box kick to score in the left corner, the Falcons earning prime field position through Matavesi’s well-weighted grubber and the visitors’ failure to scramble a clearance under pressure.
Radwan was within a whisker of delivering the bonus-point try on 19 minutes when his chip-and-chase saw the ball run dead in goal, scrum-half Sam Stuart driving a furious pace with his quick and well-judged delivery.
The wait for a bonus point proved not to be a long one, Simon Uzokwe crashing over from five metres out after a similarly barnstorming run from Matavesi had put Sale’s defence on the back foot.
The tide of tries continued just after the half hour when Connor Collett showed pace and energy to score in support of a Dunbar line-break, the skipper demonstrating fine awareness to slow down his run to find the flanker.
Young’s second try kept the scoring at more than a point a minute when the lock grounded in the right corner having been put away by Uzokwe’s audacious overhead pass, and a 45-0 half-time lead was secured when Uzokwe won a jackal penalty which was tapped quickly for Radwan to score from 50 metres out.
Radwan came close to a hat-trick in the early exchanges of the second half when he knocked on the bouncing ball from an Alex Tait grubber, Newcastle having to wait until 15 minutes into the half for their next try when Simon Uzokwe burrowed his way to the line from a close-range pick and go.
Swiel slotted the extras from wide out on the right, Newcastle finding themselves reduced to 14 men just after the hour mark when Tom Arscott was sin-binned for taking a tackled player beyond the horizontal.
Their numerical disadvantage did not overly affect their dominance of the scoreboard, and from the very next play they had their ninth try when scrum ball on halfway was spun left for Radwan to complete his hat-trick from 50 metres out.
A never-say-die Sale side responded when Ed O’Keeffe scored in the left corner from a cross-field kick, but it was no more than a consolation effort as Pedro Bettencourt responded with a late try down the left in support of a Swiel line-break, followed by an Arscot try with the final play.
The Falcons’ A-Team are next in action on Monday April 8 when they travel to Northampton, with the regular-season coming to a close at home to Worcester on April 22.
Newcastle Falcons A: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Alex Dunbar (captain), 12 Joel Matavesi, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Tim Swiel, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Trevor Davison, 2 Santiago Socino, 3 Rodney Ah You, 4 Will Witty, 5 Glen Young, 6 Rob Farrar, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Simon Uzokwe.
Replacements: 16 Jamie Blamire, 17 Adam Brocklebank, 18 Oscar Caudle (Junior Academy), 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Tom Marshall, 21 Michael Young, 22 Pedro Bettencourt, 23 Tom Arscott.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Adam Radwan 3, Zach Kibirige, Glen Young 2, Simon Uzokwe 2, Connor Collett, Pedro Bettencourt, Tom Arscott. Conversions: Tim Swiel 9.
Sale Jets: 15 Steve McColl, 14 Nathan Pope, 13 Lloyd Hayes, 12 Kieran Dunne, 11 Ed O’Keeffe, 10 Emiliano Calle Rivas, 9 Matt Sturgess; 1 James Flynn, 2 Ewan Ashman, 3 Cal Ford, 4 Kieran Frost, 5 Morgan Eames, 6 Ciaran Booth (captain), 7 Teddy Leatherbarrow, 8 Sam Dugdale.
Replacements: 16 Will Curtis, 17 Bevan Rodd, 18 James Harper, 19 Lewis Wilson, 20 Calvin Wellington, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Georg Niehaus, 23 Tom Bullough.
Sale scorers - Tries: Ed O’Keeffe.