Falcons 21 Ospreys 26

Saturday 21 January 2017

Newcastle Falcons ended their European Challenge Cup campaign with a defeat at Kingston Park on Saturday, Ospreys scoring a late double to complete their unbeaten run through the group phase.

Ospreys got them themselves off to the ideal start when fit-again Wales scrum-half Rhys Webb dummied and went from the fringes of a close-range ruck down the right, Sam Davies adding the conversion.

The visitors almost added a second right from the restart when a chip ahead and offload from the ground forced a fractional knock-on – Michael Young having scurried back in what proved to be a try-saving intervention.

Eager ruck work from Chris Harris forced a turnover as Newcastle rode an early Ospreys onslaught, Craig Willis calming things down with a well-weighted kick to the right corner.

The Falcons’ new-found foot-hold in the game delivered a try on 11 minutes when a quick left-to-right transition through the hands ended with Daniel Temm scoring in the corner, the Kiwi riding a couple of challenges as he powered his way over.

Craig Willis added the touchline conversion having kicked 100% the previous week in Grenoble, Mark Wilson continuing the momentum with a bone-shuddering ball-and-all tackle which forced the Ospreys to cough up possession around the Newcastle 22.

A dominant Falcons scrum forced the hand of French referee Alexandre Ruiz as they gave their visiting pack a tough time at the set piece, replacement prop Rob Vickers putting the home side in front with a trademark try from the base of a ruck near the Ospreys’ line.

Willis converted from in front, the fly-half growing into the game and making a third try for the home side on the half-hour when his grubber to the in-goal was grounded by the onrushing Harris for a try down the left.

Fred Burdon’s interception and back-door offload to Willis averted the danger as the Welshmen attacked in the dying embers of the opening half, his side going into the interval with a 21-7 lead to their name despite having been slow out of the blocks.

As they had done in the first half, Ospreys seized the early momentum after the break, full-back Dan Evans breaking the line with a neat inside angle as the Falcons scrambled to clear near their own try-line.

South African hooker Kyle Cooper enjoyed a busy home debut with plenty of carries and defensive work, the former Natal Sharks man hitting his target in the line-out with regularity having waited five months for an injury-delayed Kingston Park bow.

After a quiet third quarter Ospreys found their attacking stride again on 56 minutes when a long, floated pass put Hanno Dirksen in for an unconverted try in the right corner, the Falcons introducing Joel Hodgson for the closing stages in place of the impressive Willis.

Hodgson made an immediate impact with a lightning-quick line-break which earned a penalty in prime attacking position, his team kicking it to the corner in search of a four-try bonus point.

Ospreys held out on that occasion, but a late surge saw them nosing fractionally ahead when fly-half Sam Davies jinked over for a try, quickly followed by replacement hooker Scott Otten.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Dominic Waldouck, 11 Fred Burdon, 10 Craig Willis (Joel Hodgson, 60), 9 Michael Young (Sam Egerton, 71); 1 Ben Harris (Rob Vickers, 40), 2 Kyle Cooper (David Nelson, 66), 3 Jon Welsh (Paddy Ryan, 71), 4 Calum Green (Mouritz Botha, 71), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch (captain, Harrison Orr, 68), 7 Daniel Temm, 8 Mark Wilson.

Falcons scorers - Tries: Daniel Temm, Rob Vickers, Chris Harris. Conversions: Craig Willis 3.

Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen (Ben John, 63), 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Josh Matavesi (Jonathan Spratt, 28), 11 Dafydd Howells, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhys Webb (captain, Brendon Leonard, 56); 1 Gareth Thomas (Nicky Smith, 49), 2 Scott Baldwin (Scott Otten, 63), 3 Rhodri Jones (Daniel Suter, 68), 4 Adam Beard, 5 Rory Thornton (Lloyd Ashley, 71), 6 Olly Cracknell, 7 Sam Underhill (Rob McCusker, 68), 8 James King.

Ospreys scorers - Tries: Rhys Webb, Hanno Dirksen, Sam Davies, Scott Otten. Conversions: Sam Davies 3.

Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France). Attendance: 3,551.

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