Newcastle Falcons secured top seeding for the Championship Cup knock-out rounds by claiming the full five points from their last group game at home to Jersey Reds on Saturday.
Chalking up the bonus point before half-time and building on their 26-0 interval lead, the Falcons will now wait until Monday to learn their quarter-final opponents on the weekend of February 21/22/23 while the RFU finalises the make-up of the draw.
Newcastle began the game strongly with a solid supply of line-out ball from Sean Robinson and Darren Barry, fly-half Toby Flood making a line-break but finding himself pulled back for a forward pass.
The first try arrived on eight minutes and began with a Josh Matavesi line-break from a line-out on half-way. A multi-phase attack ensued, culminating in the left corner when George Wacokecoke’s arcing run and offload freed Sean Robinson for a well-taken sprint to the corner flag.
Flood converted from the left touchline, and kept Jersey pinned back after the restart with a well-judged grubber kick as lively forward running from Robinson and Philip van der Walt, among others, continued to get the home side over the gain line.
History repeated itself on 28 minutes when Robinson crossed for his and his team’s second try of the day, again in the left corner, this time coming from a flowing period of handling play which saw forwards and backs in harmony to keep the ball alive.
Alex Tait almost had a try just after the half-hour when Wacokecoke managed to get a reverse offload out of a tackle, the ball knocked on at close quarters by a Falcons side who were looking to increase the attacking tempo.
The rise in intensity paid dividends when a series of close-range penalties eventually saw skipper George McGuigan scoring in the right corner from a textbook catch-and-drive, Flood converting brilliant as he negotiated a fierce cross-wind to curl over the extras.
The four-try bonus point arrived on 39 minutes when a sneaky front move at a line-out saw McGuigan racing down the left touchline, the hooker hauled down five metres short but seeing play worked infield, where Josh Matavesi powered through the last man to score.
Flood’s conversion took the half-time score to 26-0, and Newcastle quickly built on that tally when Ben Stevenson scored in the left corner from Matavesi’s cut-out pass after slick hands down the line.
Jersey responded with a try from a driving maul in the right corner with just five minutes remaining as TJ Harris ended a scrappy and score-less period, Greg Dyer converting from the right.
But it was Newcastle who had the last say with the final play of the day, Jamie Blamire scoring from a catch-and-drive in the right corner, Joel Hodgson converting
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Josh Matavesi (Gareth Owen, 54), 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Toby Flood (Joel Hodgson, 62), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Sam Stuart, 71); 1 Sam Lockwood (Adam Brocklebank, 54), 2 George McGuigan (captain, Jamie Blamire, 54), 3 Mark Tampin (Mike Daniels, 54), 4 Darren Barry, 5 Sean Robinson (Sebastian de Chaves, 59), 6 Gary Graham, 7 Will Welch, 8 Philip van der Walt (Callum Chick, 71).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Sean Robinson 2, George McGuigan, Josh Matavesi, Ben Stevenson, Jamie Blamire. Conversions: Toby Flood 3, Joel Hodgson.
Jersey Reds: 15 Auguy Slowik, 14 Alex Morgan (Jack Stapley, 51), 13 James Newey, 12 Rodney Iona, 11 Leroy Van Dam, 10 Aaron Penberthy (Greg Dyer, 40), 9 Liam Howley (Will Homer, 47); 1 James Wayland (Harry Morley, 40), 2 Nic Dolly (TJ Harris, 47), 3 Leeroy Atalifo (Alec Clarey, 40), 4 Liam Hallam-Eames (Max Argyle, 51), 5 Rory Bartle, 6 Kyle Hatherell, 7 Jake Upfield, 8 Janco Venter (captain).
Jersey scorers - Tries: TJ Harris. Conversions: Greg Dyer.
Referee: Neil Chivers. Attendance: 3,571.