Newcastle Falcons turned on the style to register their first Gallagher Premiership bonus point victory of the season – a mixture of pace and power seeing them overcoming London Irish at Kingston Park Stadium.
Trailing 15-14 at half-time but turning on the afterburners during the final 40, the Falcons’ stated aim to finish the season strongly was plain for all to see.
The pre-match deluge of rain had thankfully abated by the time the game kicked off but the wet ball was causing problems for both sets of players - early knock-ons blighting the continuity.
England flanker Mark Wilson earned a trademark jackal penalty for his side with some eager ruck work, but they trailed on six minutes when visiting full-back Tom Parton sped in at the left corner following a transfer along the line.
Aggressive carrying from Adam Radwan, Callum Chick and Will Welch earned the Falcons a penalty and line-out opportunity 15 metres out which frustratingly went begging – Newcastle’s defence bailing them out when Irish kicked a penalty to the left corner without return.
The Falcons’ mauling game was delivering increasing rewards, Irish conceding three penalties in quick succession which ultimately ended with George McGuigan scoring from a quick tap near the posts.
Brett Connon’s conversion put the hosts into the lead, and an increasingly dominant home pack grabbed a second try on 32 minutes when a trick lineout play saw Sean Robinson taking quick ball at the front to score from a close-range drive.
Connon’s magnificent touchline conversion put the Falcons nine to the good, opposite number Paddy Jackson cutting that margin by three when he sent over a simple penalty from out in front on the 22 following a hotly-contested ruck call.
And there was a further sting in the tail with the very last play of the half when the Exiles snatched a 15-14 interval lead – Newcastle defending their maul threat but succumbing when Jackson grubbered to the right corner for Ben Loader to score a converted try.
The Falcons flew out of the blocks in the second half and scored a well-worked try three minutes after the resumption, Louis Schreuder racing in on a super support line following Chick’s linebreak and back-handed ofload.
The Londoners were reduced to 14 men for ten minutes following the restart when Curtis Rona took out Matias Orlando with a high tackle, and the Falcons took full advantage with their first four-try bonus point of the season – McGuigan scoring from a short-side maul as a penalty was kicked to the left corner.
Connon added another sublime touchline conversion, and was doing so again on 55 minutes when Ben Stevenson’s outstanding finish saw his pace and power burning a path to the left corner following a quick transfer along the back line.
Irish replied when Phil Cokanasiga scored down the left-hand side just before the hour mark to reduce the home side’s lead to 13, Connon’s well-struck 40-metre penalty nudging the Falcons a further three to the good as the game entered the closing quarter.
The chaotic pattern continued when London Irish registered a four-try bonus point when replacement hooker Motu Matu’u snuck into the left corner from a trick play at the front of a close-range line-out, Jackson hitting the post with his conversion to leave Newcastle 11 ahead going into the last 15 minutes.
Any lingering sense of danger was removed on 71 minutes when Tom Penny scored in the left corner from a period of flowing forward offloading, Connon once again converting brilliantly from out wide.
Robinson rounded off the rout with a close-range try following a sequence of slick offloading, Connon maintaining his 100% strike rate with the simple conversion.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Matias Orlando (George Wacokecoke, 57), 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Brett Connon, 9 Louis Schreuder (Sam Stuart, 55); 1 Trevor Davison (Kyle Cooper, 57), 2 George McGuigan (Jamie Blamire, 74), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (Mark Tampin, 57), 4 Greg Peterson (Philip van der Walt, 40), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch (Carl Fearns, 61), 7 Mark Wilson (captain), 8 Callum Chick.
Scorers – Tries: George McGuigan 2, Sean Robinson 2, Louis Schreuder, Tom Penny, Ben Stevenson. Conversions: Brett Connon 7. Penalties: Brett Connon.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton (James Stokes, 55), 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps (Nic Groom, 66); 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke (Facundo Gigena, 55), 2 Agustin Creevy (Motu Matu’u, 55), 3 Lovejoy Chawatama (, 4 George Nott, 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Albert Tuisue.
Scorers – Tries: Tom Parton, Ben Loader, Phil Cokanasiga, Motu Matu’u. Conversions: Paddy Jackson 2. Penalties: Paddy Jackson.
Referee: Jack Makepeace.
Penny, Radwan, Orlando, Burrell, Stevenson, Connon, Schreuder, Davison, McGuigan, Mulipola, Peterson, Robinson, Welch, Wilson, Chick
Replacements Blamire, Cooper, Tampin, Van Der Walt, Fearns, Stuart, Hodgson, Wacokecoke
Parton, Loader, Rona, Cokanasiga, Hassell-Collins, Jackson, Phipps, Goodrick-Clarke, Creevy, Chawatama, Nott, Simmons, Rogerson, Cowan, Tuisue
Replacements Matu'u, Gigena, Hoskins, Munga, Donnell, Groom, Atkins, Stokes
referee: Jack Makepeace
assistant: Andrew Jackson
assistant: Phil Watters
TMO: Christophe Ridley