Newcastle Falcons booked themselves a place in the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup after comfortably seeing off the challenge of Russian champions Enisei-STM at Kingston Park Stadium on Sunday.
The two teams will meet again in their Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Saturday as Newcastle find out who they will meet in the last eight over Easter weekend, Dean Richards’ side maintaining their unbeaten run in the tournament as they built on a 24-0 half-time lead.
Newcastle had got off to the ideal start, registering their opening try after just 44 seconds when Simon Uzokwe’s midfield line-break was supported by Tom Penny, the centre running it between the posts for Toby Flood to convert.
The second try arrived on 11 minutes when patient Falcons attack around the 22 was worked infield to Joel Hodgson, the fly-half stepping his way past three men with some nimble footwork and acceleration to assume a 14-point lead.
That looked to have been added to on 17 minutes when Michael Young supported Zach Kibirige’s line-break to cross in the right corner, only for French referee Pierre Brousset to pull back play for a prior offence.
Enisei’s big forward pack and aggressive brand of defence ensured Newcastle were made to work for every opportunity, the third try arriving just before the half-hour when a line-break from Flood and support from Glen Young saw the ball flung wide for Uzokwe to score in the right corner.
The four-try bonus point arrived on 32 minutes via the athletic frame of Glen Young, the impressive lock diving in at the right corner after neat hands down the blind-side from Ryan Burrows and Michael Young.
The score remained 24-0 at half-time despite the Falcons enjoying plenty of pressure inside the Enisei half, but they only had to wait three minutes after the resumption for try number five when Mark Wilson’s run round the corner and Hodgson’s support line allowed the fly-half to dot down his second of the afternoon.
Adam Radwan sped into the left corner for the sixth, having been fed by Simon Hammersley, and repeated the trick four minutes later when Michael Young broke from 22 to 22 to lay on the scoring pass.
Zach Kibirige was next over when he chased down a kick to the left corner to dot down, a never-say-die Enisei side earning a deserved applause from the home fans when Maxim Gargalic ploughed over for a pick-and-go try in the right corner.
Iurii Kushnarev converted from wide right, Radwan resuming the Falcons’ dominance on the scoreboard when he intercepted on halfway to complete his hat-trick three minutes from time, followed in the final play by a 50-metre sprint from Ryan Burrows to the left corner.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley (Cameron Cowell, 59), 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Tom Penny, 12 Toby Flood (Craig Willis, 49), 11 Adam Radwan, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Michael Young (Sam Stuart, 55); 1 Sam Lockwood (Trevor Davison, 59), 2 Ben Sowrey, 3 Scott Wilson (Jack Payne, 49), 4 Calum Green (Will Witty, 49), 5 Glen Young, 6 Mark Wilson (captain, Jamie Blamire, 55), 7 Simon Uzokwe (Rob Vickers, 77), 8 Ryan Burrows.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Tom Penny, Joel Hodgson 2, Simon Uzokwe, Glen Young, Adam Radwan 3, Zach Kibirige, Ryan Burrows. Conversions: Toby Flood 3, Joel Hodgson 4.
Enisei-STM: 15 Iurii Kushnarev, 14 Jurijs Baranovs, 13 Aleksei Mikhaltsov, 12 David Kacharava, 11 Sergey Trishin (Evgeny Nepeivoda, 49), 10 Ramil Gaisin (Aleksandr Budychenko, 53), 9 Alexey Shcherban; 1 Andrei Polivalov (Valery Morozov, 40), 2 Stanislav Selskii (Nazir Gasanov, 40), 3 Innokentiy Zykov (Jake Grey, 55), 4 Uldis Saulite (captain, Maxim Gargalic, 57), 5 Evgeny Elgin, 6 Mikheil Gachechiladze, 7 Dmitrii Krotov, 8 Anton Rudoi.
Enisei scorers - Tries: Maxim Gargalic. Conversions: Iurii Kushnarev.
Referee: Pierre Brousset (France). Attendance: 3,653.