Newcastle Falcons extended their lead at the top of the Greene King IPA Championship to 12 points on Saturday as they won their 18th successive match, defeating Hartpury away.
Leading 19-5 at the interval and going on to chalk up the bonus point just five minutes into the second half, the unbeaten league leaders showed efficiency and a ruthless streak in making the most of their attacking opportunities.
The home side had enjoyed the better of the early territory and possession, earning a succession of penalties and free kicks in the Falcons’ red zone but unable to turn them into points due to the visitors’ defensive patience and organisation.
It took Newcastle until the 19th minute to enjoy any sustained ball-in-hand in Hartpury territory, but they quickly turned it into points when George Wacokecoke touched down his ninth try of the season.
Playing a well-judged advantage from a Hartpury midfield offside the centre broke down the right, and even when he was hauled down five metres short he simply got back to his feet and dotted the ball down over the line.
Brett Connon’s touchline conversion was held up by a heavy crosswind and bounced back off the post, and even when Hartpury kicked a penalty to the left corner quickly after the re-start Greg Peterson rose high to steal the line-out.
Newcastle took their tally to double figures on the half-hour when co-captain Michael Young darted between the posts for a converted try, his show-and-go from 25 metres flat-footing the defensive line.
Showing great efficiency in converting their visits to the Hartpury 22 into points, the Falcons found a third try when Nemani Nagusa hit a hard midfield running line and bulldozed his way over the last man to score between the posts – Connon adding the simple conversion.
The home side responded with a consistent period of pick-and-go near the Newcastle try-line which the Falcons defended patiently, but the resulting scrum 20 metres out saw Hartpury scoring with the last play of the half when a well-worked short-side move freed Jacob Morris to score in the right corner.
Bragman fired narrowly wide with the touchline to leave the Falcons 19-5 up at the midway stage, but within five minutes of the resumption the Falcons had claimed the four-try bonus point.
It all stemmed from a penalty kicked to the left corner, Hartpury pulling down the resulting maul but seeing their visitors play another effective advantage, powerful running from Johnny Williams enabling Logovi’i Mulipola to crash over from short range down the right.
Connon slotted the extras, his side also fronting up in defence as they held Hartpury up over the try-line and then defended the resulting five-metre scrum to great effect.
Neither side was able to trouble the scorers in a low-key closing quarter, but the result by that stage was never in doubt.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Alex Tait, 13 George Wacokecoke (Gareth Owen, 62), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Michael Young (co-captain, Sonatane Takulua, 69); 1 Logovi'i Mulipola (Rodney Ah You, 51), 2 George McGuigan (co-captain, Jamie Blamire, 69), 3 Mike Daniels (Mark Tampin, 51), 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson (Sebastian de Chaves, 70), 6 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch (Simon Uzokwe, 76), 8 Nemani Nagusa.
Falcons scorers - Tries: George Wacokecoke, Michael Young, Nemani Nagus, Logovi’i Mulipola. Conversions: Brett Connon 3.
Hartpury: 15 George Simpson, 14 Jacob Morris, 13 Robbie Smith, 12 Luke Eves, 11 Sam Goatley, 10 Joshua Bragman, 9 Luke Carter (captain, Harry Cochrane, 65); 1 Olly Adkins (Ashley Challenger, 56), 2 Will Tanner (Will Crane, 56), 3 Jake Armstrong, 4 John Hawkins, 5 Simon Linsell, 6 Sam Graham, 7 Akapusi Qera, 8 Seb Nagle-Taylor.
Hartpury scorers - Tries: Jacob Morris.
Referee: Fergus Kirby.