Fly-half Brett Connon will be a Newcastle Falcons player next season, having signed a contract extension to remain at Kingston Park Stadium.
The 24-year-old last weekend became the first Falcons player to kick seven conversions in a Gallagher Premiership match – the Carlisle native recording 100% goal-kicking stats for the second week running.
Connon has amassed 188 points in his 45 first team outings, saying: “I’m really happy to have signed with the club for another year.
“I’ve had a lot of game time this season – more than I could have ever hoped for, really – and I’ve enjoyed it.
“At the start of the season we gave people a glimpse of what we’re capable of by winning our first three games, and then last weekend against London Irish was a little reminder of that.”
Kicking eight from eight in the 52-27 triumph, Connon said: “We’re building as a squad, and we’re slowly getting there after a good year in the Championship leading into this season.
“We know we need to get back into the kind of form we were in at the beginning of the season on a more regular basis, but it’s just nice to know I’ll be a part of that.
“Last weekend it was pleasing to put that kind of performance out there, because we’ve known we’ve had it in us for a little while.
“From a personal point of view it was also great to be reaching those sorts of levels, because even when we were winning games at the start of the season my own individual performances weren’t necessarily where I wanted them to be – off the kicking tee especially.
“I expect my level to be much closer to where I was against London Irish, and if I can be doing that on a consistent basis then the team will be in a much better overall position.”
Keen to maintain that momentum during the remaining four games of the season as they prepare for Monday night’s visit of Northampton Saints, Connon said: “I read a stat over the weekend which said it’s the first time we’ve scored more than 50 points in the Premiership since 2006, and while you don’t ever want to get obsessed by statistics it’s obviously nice when you hear stuff like that coming out.
“We are getting there as a team, and we all share the supporters’ frustrations in knowing we’ve missed out on a few wins or a few try bonus points during the season when it was within our reach.
“Things have seemed to click more recently, and it’s great for people to see that we’re not far off.
“If we’d nicked one or two more of those tight ones we’d have been near that top end of the table, but even with four games left we’ve still given ourselves a shout of Champions Cup rugby for next season if we can maintain the kind of level we showed last weekend.
“These next four games are massively exciting for everyone, and there are a couple of teams we haven’t managed to play yet due to Covid cancellations earlier in the season against Northampton and Worcester.
“It’ll be great to test ourselves against those guys, and then with the way Harlequins played at the weekend that’s another exciting challenge in trying to beat them for the second time this year. Going away to the Premiership and European champions Exeter is another brilliant test, and I just think it’s a really exciting block of four games when you look at the whole picture.”
Monday’s visit of Northampton sees a welcome return of supporters, with a maximum of 1,750 permitted to attend the Kingston Park test event.
For Connon and his team-mates it represents a major milestone in the return to normality, the former Ireland Under-20s star saying: “It’s going to be amazing having some supporters back inside the ground, even though everyone obviously knows it won’t be anywhere near capacity.
“It’s been massively different having empty grounds for the whole season, and as much as it’s been great to get the games played I don’t think anyone has enjoyed the complete lack of an atmosphere around the stadium.
“The reason we enjoy playing is to hear that crowd getting involved in the game, and feeding off that energy. For me it’s the most enjoyable thing about being a rugby player, and I’ve missed it so much you wouldn’t believe.
“Playing a Premiership game on a Monday night is obviously going to be a bit weird for the boys, but if it means we can get some supporters back and start to have that sense of normality then it’s more than worth it.
“Our supporters have stuck with us and had to be patient during 14 months where they’ve not been allowed to come to the ground, so from our side as players there’s a massive incentive for everyone to repay that backing with a really big performance.”