Newcastle Falcons regained winning ways on Sunday, out-gunning northern rivals Sale Sharks in a Premiership Rugby Cup ‘derby’ to secure safe passage to the semi-finals.
Newcastle made much of the early running and had themselves a seven-point lead on 11 minutes when Callum Chick scored from a close-range pick and go, the ruck having been created by a Simon Uzokwe carry from a scrum-five in the right corner.
Toby Flood converted, Newcastle varying their attacking game with some astute running lines and forward carries.
A solid set-piece platform was being delivered as Andrew Davidson and Glen Young dominated the line-out exchanges, Tom Arscott looking lively from full-back against his former club as he hit the line at pace.
It was therefore somewhat against the run of play that the home side drew level on 25 minutes, centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg collecting a chip over the defensive line to score between the posts, scrum-half Will Cliff adding the conversion.
Newcastle resumed their dominance of territory and possession but found points hard to come by against an eager Sharks defence, who managed to repel wave after wave of red-zone attack, prop Trevor Davison among the many willing carries for the Falcons.
The 7-7 score-line still stood at half-time despite the best efforts of both sides, Newcastle opting for a scrum when handed a penalty in front of the posts and failing to make it count, and Sale knocking on from a kick ahead as Reed tried to sniff out a score down the left.
The Falcons kept their attacking mind-set during the opening passages of the second half, keeping the ball in hand from deep, and they were showing plenty of aggression in defence too as a man-and-ball tackle from Josh Matavesi earned them a penalty inside their own half.
It took the 59th-minute introduction of Premiership Player of the Season Vereniki Goneva to make the breakthrough, the Fijian scoring less than a minute after coming on from the bench, breaking the defensive line from 30 metres out and playing a one-two with Toby Flood, who added the conversion.
Goneva’s quick tap penalty on half-way almost yielded further gains as he found the supporting Santiago Socino in an attack which eventually fizzled out, Sale too coming close when Beaumont tried to put Reed through a hole, only to see the ball knocked forward.
Newcastle found a way through on 65 minutes when Zach Kibirige sped home, supporting a Glen Young run on the Sale 22 after Sam Stuart’s snipe and offload had created the line-break.
Flood added the conversion, leaving the Falcons 15 minutes to find the potentially-crucial fourth try, but it was Sale who managed to force their way over when Beaumont picked and went from the base of a five-metre scrum for an unconverted try.
Newcastle left it until the 77th minute to lay the doubts to rest, replacement Jamie Blamire scoring the decisive bonus-point try with the hooker showing fine footwork to dance his way over, Brett Connon converting.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Josh Matavesi (Vereniki Goneva, 59), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Michael Young (Sam Stuart, 59); 1 Sami Mavinga (Adam Brocklebank, 42), 2 Santiago Socino (Jamie Blamire, 75), 3 Trevor Davison (David Wilson, 50), 4 Andrew Davidson (Tevita Cavubati, 46), 5 Glen Young, 6 Ryan Burrows, 7 Callum Chick, 8 Simon Uzokwe.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Callum Chick, Vereniki Goneva, Zach Kibirige, Jamie Blamire. Conversions: Toby Flood 3, Brett Connon.
Sale Sharks: 15 Luke James, 14 Arron Reed, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Tom Roebuck, 50), 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 Kieran Wilkinson, 9 Will Cliff (Matt Sturgess, 67); 1 Tom Bristow (Valery Morozov, 50), 2 Curtis Langdon (Rob Webber, 55), 3 Joe Jones (Alexandru Tarus, 55), 4 Bryn Evans (Matt Postlethwaite, 62), 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 6 Cameron Neild, 7 Ben Curry (captain, Josh Beaumont, 22), 8 Sam Moore.
Sale scorers - Tries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Josh Beaumont. Conversions: Will Cliff.
Referee: Hamish Smales. Attendance: 3,824.