Newcastle Falcons ended the season with a bonus point victory at home to Harlequins, Mike Blair the man of the day on his final appearance in a Falcons shirt.
It was a day to remember for Mike Blair, the Falcons’ stand in captain scoring the third of five Falcons tries and collecting a man of the match award on his final appearance as a Falcon before leaving the field to a standing ovation.
Richard Mayhew, Scott Lawson, Adam Powell and Andy Saull also got their names on the scoresheet in a bonus point 37-21 victory that saw the Falcons end their season on a high.
The home side looked impressive from the off, making the first attack and getting off the mark two minutes in with a driving maul that culminated in a try, Richard Mayhew the man to score.
The conversion was missed though and the ball headed back up field with Quins taking their first penalty of the game four minutes later and Nick Evans getting them on the scoreboard.
As Alex Tait dragged Marland Yarde into touch, the subsequent line out put the Falcons in position for what seemed to be a certain try, going right across the field before a fumble from Simon Hammersley sent the ball into touch.
The home side received some recompense for their play though, with play taken back to in front of the posts ready for Tom Catterick to step up and add three points to the total.
Some superb kicking from the Falcons made good ground as they headed back towards the try line, but were unable to make it all the way. A run shortly afterwards looked to be more successful but Tom Catterick was brought down by the visiting side, getting back to his feet just in time to take the subsequent penalty and take the score to 11-3 to the home side.
Again though, Quins were quick to reply, winning a penalty shortly after the reset directly in front of the posts and allowing Nick Evans to double his team’s score.
The Londoners took the ball from the re-start, heading off on the attack only for the ball to be turned over by the Falcons.
Kieran Brookes could have cemented his name in Falcons folklore on his last appearance for the club as he ran 20 metres towards the try line, but a missed pass put Quins back in possession.
Instead it was Harlequins who were next on the scoreboard, winning the ball from a lineout 15m out and driving forward a short way before passing the ball across the field to allow Evans to dive over the line, the Fly Half converting his own score to put his side in front for the first time of the game.
And despite the Falcons’ dominance at scrums it was the visitors that two three in quick succession as the first half drew to a close, ending with two penalties in quick succession, the second taken in front of the posts to set the half time score at 11-16.
Half time saw the welcome return of Zach Kibirige in a Falcons shirt, the youngster taking to the wing in place of Alex Tait.
Harlequins were the first to score after the break, two missed tackles allowing Jack Clifford to punch through the midfield for a score under the post.
Some good attacking work from the Falcons in the subsequent ten minutes saw Tom Catterick and Simon Hammersley both make good ground as the home side headed up field, but despite their best efforts the score wouldn’t come.
An attack from the breakdown left the Falcons put in a string of good passes, moving ever-closer to the line until former Quins man Alex Rogers took control five metres out. But a knock on awarded the scrum to Harlequins and increased home fans’ frustrations.
Things were soon to take a turn for the better though, a penalty in Quins’ 22 for dragging down an earlier maul allowing the Falcons to drive over the line, Scott Lawson the scorer. Catterick added the conversion to put the home side back ahead at 18-16.
But there was more frustration to come for the Falcons, a forward pass giving Quins a scrum on the Falcons’ 22. A patient attack from the visitors allowed Yarde to shrug off Powell to make it to the line. Evans missed the conversion but the Londoners were still back in front, 18-21 the score.
The score remained for over 10 minutes but the Falcons’ dogged attack paid off 18 minutes from time when captain Mike Blair touched down for his final try in front of a home crowd in Newcastle. Catterick once again converted, putting the Falcons back in front again.
It was to be Blair’s last act in a Falcons shirt, the former British and Irish Lion leaving the pitch to a standing ovation from the Kingston Park faithful.
The home crowd had to wait ten minutes for another score but it was worth the wait, strong running from Adam Powell breaking the Quins’ line and allowing him to go in for the bonus point try. Catterick once again nailed the conversion taking it to 32-21 with eight minutes to go.
The Falcons continued to press, Juan Pablo Socino showcasing the blockbusting attacking style he’s become known for since joining the Falcons at the start of the season, but there was no score, Quins gaining the turnover.
But the home side weren’t finished, the crowd on their feet as Andy Saull signed off with a 20 metre run to the line for his last act in a Falcons shirt.
With the clock dead and the Falcons 14 points ahead, it was left to one man to add the final points…. Alex Tuilagi stepping up for the kick. It went short but the Falcons family were more than happy, 37-21 the final score and bonus point win to end the 2014/15 season.
Hammersley, Tait, Powell, Socino, Tuilagi, Catterick, Blair, Fry, Lawson, Brookes, Green, MacLeod, Mayhew, Wilson, Kolo'ofai
Replacements McGuigan, Vickers, Rogers, Witty, Saull, Tipuna, Tuilagi, Kibirige
Lindsay-Hague, Yarde, Marchant, Sloan, Walker, Evans, Care, Marfo, Ward, Shields, Matthews, Merrick, Chisholm, Clifford, Talei
Replacements Gray, Buchanan, Adeniran-Olule, Twomey, Trayfoot, Dickson, Botica, Williams
referee: Tom Foley