Newcastle Falcons enjoyed a useful 90-minute work-out against Championship side Nottingham on Saturday as they began their pre-season with a home victory.
Split into three periods of 30 minutes and seeing mass changes throughout, the keenly-contested match gave director of rugby Dean Richards ample food for thought as his squad tries to improve on their best season in two decades.
The Falcons enjoyed the ideal start to proceedings, grabbing their first try after just three minutes when Adam Radwan went the length from deep inside his own 22, hitting an outside arc and burning his way past the Nottingham defence.
Joel Hodgson slotted the extras from in front, but the sides were level four minutes later when Sean Scanlon grounded a converted try down the left despite a couple of forward-looking passes in the build-up.
Jack Spittle crossed in the right corner to pit the visitors ahead, but on the 20-minute mark a quick tap penalty and a scoring pass from Radwan freed Josh Matavesi for a walk-in at the left corner, converted majestically by Joel Hodgson for a two-point lead.
The hosts were exerting a greater degree of control by this stage, and after a number of near misses the third try arrived just before the half-hour, hooker Jamie Blamire pouncing on a loose ball from a Nottingham line-out tap-down to claim the converted score and a 21-12 lead at the end of the first third.
Mass changes to the Newcastle back line for the second period did nothing to halt the momentum, Andrew Davidson sniping down the blindside for their fourth try just a minute after the resumption, Brett Connon slotting the extras from wide left.
Nottingham responded when neat hands down the right enabled Scanlon to score his second try of the day, Millett converting well from the touchline on a day when his side showed plenty of ability and physicality.
Newcastle’s fifth try arrived on 40 minutes when prop Jack Payne showed commendable work rate in supporting a 70-metre line-break from debutant Johnny Williams, the former London Irish centre breaking from his own 22 and getting to within five metres of the line before passing out of the tackle.
That left the home side 35-19 to the good at the end of the second third, Toby Flood among the backs entering the fray for the final half-hour, and the fly-half converted impressively from the right touchline when George Wacokecoke’s linebreak helped enable Glen Young to race in from the 22.
The visitors responded with a try in the left corner from a driving maul, converted by Will Sutton, Newcastle resuming their dominance when a quickly-tapped penalty on the Nottingham 22 and a series of offloads saw Dominic Waldouck crossing in the right corner for the final points of the day.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Pedro Bettencourt, 12 Josh Matavesi, 11 George Wacokecoke, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sam Stuart; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Jack Payne, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 5 Calum Green, 6 Andrew Davidson, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Callum Chick (captain).
Replacements: Sami Mavinga, Santiago Socino, Trevor Davison, Will Witty, Glen Young, Gary Graham, Simon Uzokwe, Tom Marshall, James Elliott, Toby Flood, Ben Stevenson, Charlie Wilson, Dominic Waldouck, Zach Kibirige, Alex Tait, Will Montgomery, Johnny Williams, Brett Connon, Tom Penny, Simon Hammersley.
Falcons - Tries: Adam Radwan, Josh Matavesi, Jamie Blamire, Andrew Davidson, Jack Payne, Glen Young, Dominic Waldouck. Conversions: Joel Hodgson 3, Brett Connon 2, Toby Flood.
Nottingham: 15 Sean Scanlon, 14 David Will, 12 Luke Peters, 11 Jack Spittle, 10 Will Millett, 9 Murray McConnell; 1 James Penman, 2 Ben Brownlie, 3 Mike Daniels, 4 Llewelyn Jones, 5 Danny Qualter, 6 Shane Buckley, 7 Will Owen, 8 Jordan Coghlan.
Replacements: Jake Farnworth, Aniseko Sio, Oisin Heffernan, Seb Cecil, Josh Poullet, Alex Crocker, Will Sutton, Luke Cole, Cecil MacCarthy, Will Cardall, George Cox, Matt Riddington, Harry Graham, Alex Goble.
Nottingham - Tries: Sean Scanlon 2, Jack Spittle, A Forward. Conversions: Will Millett 2, Will Sutton.
Referee: Jack Makepeace. Attendance: 2,080.