Newcastle Falcons extended their lead at the top of the Greene King IPA Championship to 11 points on Sunday as they reached the midway point of the league season with their unbeaten record still intact.
Winning for the 17th time in succession, they had the bonus point wrapped up inside 32 minutes and led 33-7 at the interval, their visitors showing commendable spirit and a never-say-die attitude.
Newcastle’s defence showed its teeth as early as the fifth minute, with a superb counter-maul forcing a turnover near their own try-line after Ampthill had kicked a penalty to the left corner for an attacking line-out.
The Falcons’ attack grew into the game and they had their first try on 12 minutes, sustained forward pressure and a sequence of close-range rucks eventually seeing Will Welch barge over in the right corner amid a heap of bodies.
Brett Connon converted from out wide in his first start of the season, and a second try was a whisker away on 16 minutes when George Wacokecoke’s grubber to the left corner had just too much on it for the onrushing Sean Robinson following a series of dominant collisions.
Connon turned try-scorer on 22 minutes when he glided through the visiting defence to score between the posts, converting his own score.
And the third try followed almost instantly when Nemani Nagusa caught a Johnny Williams offload in the right corner to dive over the line for an unconverted score.
Newcastle’s pace, power and offloading ability were proving far too much for their visitors to handle, and they had the four-try bonus point after just 32 minutes when Nagusa scored down the right from a Robinson offload.
Connon added the extras, but Ampthill got themselves off the mark on 36 minutes when full-back Tomi Lewis scored after collecting an inside pass from left wing Will Foster, Louis Grimoldby converting.
The Falcons quickly resumed their dominance of territory and possession, Ampthill scrum-half Leon Fukofuka finding himself sin-binned for a high tackle in midfield. Newcastle kicked the resulting penalty to the left corner, and when the visitors pulled down an unstoppable driving maul referee George Selwood raced between the posts to award the penalty try.
That left Newcastle 33-7 up at the interval, and they only had to wait until three minutes into the second half for their next score when prop Mike Daniels pounced on a loose ball near the try-line for a converted try.
McGuigan followed that up on 49 minutes with a try from another driving maul in the left corner, but Ampthill responded when lock Billy Johnson scored their second of the afternoon after collecting a loose pass in the Falcons’ 22.
Johnson doubled his own personal tally with Ampthill’s third try when he snuck over in the left corner, and they chalked up a well-deserved bonus point with two minutes to spare when Spencer Sutherland collected a long, looping pass to score in the right corner.
It got even better for the Bedfordshire-based side when Johnson completed his hat-trick, in what turned out to be the final score of the day.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Tim Swiel, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti (Gareth Owen, 47), 10 Brett Connon (Joel Hodgson, 57), 9 Michael Young (co-captain, Sonatane Takulua, 57); 1 Trevor Davison (Sam Lockwood, 40), 2 George McGuigan (co-captain, Charlie Maddison, 66), 3 Mike Daniels (Logovi’i Mulipola, 69), 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson (Sebastian de Chaves, 47), 6 Callum Chick, 7 Will Welch, 8 Nemani Nagusa (Simon Uzokwe, 69).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Will Welch, Brett Connon, Nemani Nagusa 2, Penalty try, Mike Daniels, George McGuigan. Conversions: Brett Connon 4. Penalties: .
Ampthill: 15 Tomi Lewis, 14 Spencer Sutherland, 13 Jarryd Sage, 12 Sam Hanks, 11 Will Foster (Serafin Bordoli, 40), 10 Louis Grimoldby (captain), 9 Leon Fukofuka; 1 Soane Tonga’uiha (Ben Christie, 51), 2 Dave Ward, 3 Matt Collins (Luvuyo Pupuma, 51), 4 Rob Langley, 5 Billy Johnson, 6 Jac Arthur (Henri Williams, 54), 7 Will Allman, 8 Maama Molitika (Sam Hudson, 51, Will Allman, 63).
Ampthill scorers - Tries: Tomi Lewis, Billy Johnson 3, Spencer Sutherland. Conversions: Louis Grimoldby, Serafin Bordoli.
Referee: George Selwood. Attendance: 4,906.