Stade Francais 31 – 24 Newcastle Falcons

Thursday 11 December 2014 Written by: Adam

Newcastle Falcons left nothing on the field as a performance of heart and grit saw them emerging with a hard-earned bonus point in a 31-24 loss at Stade Francais.

An eight-try thriller in the French capital was a fabulous advert for the European Rugby Challenge Cup, home hooker Remi Bonfils applying the decisive blow when he squirmed over from a rolling maul with six minutes to go.

Even despite the defeat Newcastle remain firmly in the picture for quarter-final qualification, and return to the Premiership campaign at Harlequins this weekend buoyed from a busy night’s work in Paris.

There was scarcely a second’s grace to draw breath in a match which showcased the Falcons’ attacking intentions, Juan Pablo Socino sprinting in for their first try with just five minutes on the clock.

A charge-down from No 8 Mark Wilson paved the way for the Argentinean centre to score between the posts, Socino collecting Wilson’s offload with Rory Clegg slotting the conversion.

Stade were soon level when former rugby league star Krisnan Inu demonstrated his union credentials, the Kiwi diving in at the right corner after his side exploited an overlap in the wide channel.

Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn drilled the touchline conversion to restore parity, his side surging into the lead when Inu’s line-break and offload set the stage for left wing Djibril Camara to score in the left corner.

The game looked to be swinging even further the Parisians’ way when Samoa full-back Paul Williams collected Steyn’s looping pass to dot down in the left corner, but Newcastle were in no mood to lie down.

Simon Hammersley was his usual bundle of energy with a succession of line-breaks, the former Durham University man spinning and bouncing out of tackles, fuelled by a sheer unwillingness to be grounded.

And it was he who crossed for the visitors’ second try on 35 minutes, Chris Harris breaking down the right wing before his follow-up players transferred the ball to the other flank.

There, Noah Cato made the telling break, the former Saracens and Northampton man forcing his way into the 22 before locating Hammersley’s perfectly-timed run with a neat offload out of the tackle.

Clegg converted to reduce the gap to three, but there was a double blow with the final play of the half when a penalty try from repeated scrum re-sets handed Stade a penalty try and an attacking bonus point.

That took the home side’s half-time lead to 24-14, but any ideas of a rollover during the second half were quickly dispelled as the Falcons flew out of the blocks.

Turning down a kickable penalty on the 22 in front of the posts they instead gambled on a line-out 10 metres from the line. A series of phases got them to within striking distance, and it was a ruck in the left corner which proved decisive as Wilson scooped up the ball and barged his way over.

Clegg bisected the uprights from the touchline, his penalty on the hour mark drawing the sides level as the Falcons entered the final quarter pegged 24-24 with their hosts.

A bruising climax saw both home flanker Jono Ross and visiting prop Rob Vickers sin-binned, Stade making the better use of what territory they enjoyed when Bonfils profited with a try from a rolling maul.

Steyn’s conversion meant the best the Falcons could hope for was a draw, but despite a series of late incursions a losing bonus point was to be their reward after an industrious and entertaining night’s work.

**Newcastle Falcons**
S Hammersley, C Harris, A Powell (captain), JP Socino, N Cato, R Clegg (T Catterick, 67), R Tipuna; E Fry (R Vickers, 40), G McGuigan, A Rogers (E Fry, 55), C Green, K Thompson (D Barrow, 67), S Robinson (C York, 40), A Saull, M Wilson.
Sin-bin: R Vickers (67)

Falcons scorers – Tries: JP Socino, S Hammersley, M Wilson. Conversions: R Clegg 3. Penalties: R Clegg.

**Stade Francais**
P Williams, J Sinzelle, G Doumayrou, K Inu (J Tomas, 67), D Camara (J Danty, 52), M Steyn, J Fillol; Z Taulafo (S Chellat, 67), M Bonfils (Z Zhvania, 75), D Kubriashvili, H Pyle, G Mostert (P Gabrillagues, 63), J Ross, P Rabadan (captain, M Ugena, 63), R Lakafia.
Sin-bin: J Ross (61)

Stade scorers – Tries: K Inu, D Camara, P Williams, Penalty try, R Bonfils. Conversions: M Steyn 3.

Referee: D Phillips (Ireland).