Newcastle Falcons continued to build up a head of steam for the start of the new season, defeating European and Pro 14 champions Leinster at Dublin’s Energia Park on Friday night.
Playing a high-tempo brand of rugby and hitting some scintillating running lines, the visitors built a 21-7 half-time lead and simply refused to let the pace drop.
Newcastle began the game brightly, Sam Stuart’s box-kicking and the aggressive chasing of Tom Arscott forcing handling errors from the home side as they knocked on under pressure.
The Falcons had the lead inside 10 minutes, Tom Penny collecting a Toby Flood offload five metres out after a patient multi-phase attack which was sparked by initial runs from Santiago Socino and Simon Uzokwe.
Flood converted from in front, Newcastle showing promising handling ability but having to survive a couple of Leinster line-breaks as the Irishmen found space on the counter.
A breakdown turnover from summer signing Connor Collett relieved the pressure when lock Mick Kearney broke through the middle, but the Falcons almost found a second try on 20 minutes when a line-out in the right corner and some enterprising back play created room to attack, the offload just not sticking.
Leinster missed an opportunity to hurt the visitors when Will Witty stole a line-out inside his own 22, but the hosts drew level on 33 minutes when Joe Tomane’s outside break and a quick exchange of passes freed Tom Daly for a converted try in the left corner.
The parity lasted only a matter of minutes as Newcastle scored a well-rehearsed try from first phase, Zach Kibirige gliding through a hole after a line-out in the left corner was worked right down the back line, Kibirige’s perfectly-timed angle flat-footing the home defence.
Flood converted to put the Falcons seven points up, and it got even better with the last play of the half when Simon Uzokwe powered over for their third try, the flanker diving in at the right corner after Tait’s leg-pumping break set up a close-range ruck, Uzokwe collecting the ball at first receiver and simply refusing to be tackled.
Flood’s conversion gave the Falcons a 21-7 half-time lead, and it took them only four minutes of the second period to grab try number four, replacement Adam Radwan coming in from his perch on the left wing to pick a super midfield hole after a series of close-range drives got the visitors to within inches.
Joel Hodgson converted from in front, Newcastle forced into defensive mode when Josh Matavesi tracked back for a try-saving intervention, followed moments later by George McGuigan winning a jackal turnover on his own 22 in his first outing since re-joining from Leicester.
The fifth try seemed an inevitability with Newcastle resuming their dominance, and it arrived on 56 minutes when England flanker Mark Wilson made a searing linebreak, feeding scrum-half James Elliott for a simple score on a supporting line.
Hodgson added the simple conversion, Leinster replying on 73 minutes when a series of re-set scrums and the sin-binning of Sami Mavinga handed them the extra man, Adam Byrne grounding down the right.
Daly’s second try of the night arrived on 77 minutes when the winger hit an inside angle to blast through, but the Falcons responded right away when Johnny Williams raced in from halfway, Hodgson adding the extras in what was the final scoring act of an impressive evening’s work.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Santiago Socino, 3 Jack Payne, 4 Will Witty, 5 Calum Green, 6 Simon Uzokwe, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Callum Chick.
Replacements: Sami Mavinga, George McGuigan, Trevor Davison, Tevita Cavubati, Glen Young, Mark Wilson, Will Welch, Tom Marshall, James Elliott, Joel Hodgson, George Wacokecoke, Johnny Williams, Chris Harris, Adam Radwan, Simon Hammersley.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Tom Penny, Zach Kibirige, Simon Uzokwe, Adam Radwan, James Elliott, Johnny Williams. Conversions: Toby Flood 3, Joel Hodgson 3.
Leinster: 15 Dave Kearney, 14 Hugo Keenan, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 Barry Daly, 10 Ciarán Frawley, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park; 1 Ed Byrne, 2 James Tracy, 3 Michael Bent, 4 Scott Fardy (captain), 5 Mick Kearney, 6 Josh Murphy, 7 Will Connors, 8 Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze, Ross Molony, Ian Nagle, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, James Lowe, Tom Daly, Adam Byrne.
Leinster scorers - Tries: Tom Daly 2, Adam Byrne. Conversions: Tom Daly.
Referee: George Clancy. Attendance: 3,800.