Newcastle Falcons put daylight between themselves and Newport at the top of Pool 4 in the British and Irish Cup, with a 26-10 victory over the Welsh outfit at Rodney Parade.
Yet another win on the road, and another maximum point haul for Dean Richards’ men as the Falcons made it 14 wins out of 14 in all competitions ahead of the return clash at Kingston Park next week.
The Falcons had early opportunities to get the scoreboard rolling with Jimmy Gopperth and Joel Hodgson the architects.
With barely a minute on the clock Gopperth breached the Newport rearguard with a shimmy and a side-step before offloading to Luke Fielden who was tackled 10-metres from the line.
Moments later fly-half Hodgson illustrated his trickery with ball in hand as he danced around three Newport defenders to unleash Rory Lawson. However the move broke down.
But the Falcons registered their first points of the game courtesy of a Richard Mayhew try on 16 minutes. Quick ball at the breakdown provided the Kiwi back-row with the ammunition to burst through a gap unchallenged to touch down. Hodgson, who was in control of the kicking duties, failed with the conversion and the Falcons held the upper hand at 5-0.
Newport reduced the deficit to 5-3 mid-way through the first-half by virtue of a Scott Sneddon penalty after Chris York was penalised for a high tackle. The Welshmen to their credit were demonstrating a real appetite for the contest despite their early set-back.
From the restart the Falcons marched up-field and earned themselves a penalty bang in front of the posts which the visitors turned down in favour of a kick into the corner. Clean ball at the line-out set Grant Shiells free on the charge before he was tackled just inches from the try-line. At the breakdown Lawson fed Hodgson, who in turn moved the ball on to Andrew Higgins with an inch perfect pass. Higgins went over for the try, but referee Eddie Hogan-O’Connell awarded the penalty try for a high tackle on Higgins.
Hodgson made no mistake with the extras to put his side 12-3 in front.
Gopperth enhanced the Falcons lead to 19-3 with a try out wide thanks to a sublime passing move involving both the forwards and backs. Hodgson’s killer ball to Chris York gave Gopperth an easy run-in on the overlap. Hodgson’s conversion gave the Falcons some breathing space with half-time looming.
On the stroke of half-time Gopperth doubled his tally for the afternoon with a carbon copy of his first try to seal the bonus-point. Hodgson converted for a 26-3 interval lead.
Newport came out for the second-period in positive mood and immediately nailed on their first try of the game. No.8 Craig Everett crashed over from close range following patient build-up which saw the hosts keep the ball in hand for a number of phases.
Sneddon converted to reduce the arrears to 26-10. On 56 minutes Mark Wilson was helped off the field of play with what appeared to be concussion following a heavy collision at the ruck. James Hudson returned to the fray after being side-lined with a hand injury.
With less than 20 minutes remaining Newport were making a fist of the affair, backed by a vociferous Welsh crowd. A week after making his league debut, Scott Wilson was sin-binned for an altercation at the ruck, with the hosts pushing for a try.
James Fitzpatrick punctured holes in the Newport defence when he came on as a second-half replacement as the Falcons looked to press home their advantage.
But the Falcons saw out the game to maintain their unbeaten run in all competitions.
Newport: 15 James Leadbeater, 14 Elliot Frewen, 13 Geraint O’Driscoll, 12 Adam Davies, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Scott Sneddon, 9 Rhys Downes, 1 David Pattison, 2 Ryan Prosser, 3 Gethin Robinson (c), 4 Dafydd Rosser, 5 Adam Frampton, 6 Brendan Lampitt, 7 Craig Attwell, 8 Craig Everett
Replacements: 16 Andrew Brown, 17 Jamie Jeune, 18 Lance Randell, 19 Oliver Griffiths, 20 Dominic Franchi, 21 Owen Broad, 22 Andrew Quick
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Jamie Helleur (c), 11 Andy Higgins, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Michael Mayhew, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 James Goode, 6 Chris York, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 18 James Hudson, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Waisea Luveniyali, 22 James Fitzpatrick
Referee: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)