Luther Burrell

Falcons A 12 Sale A 20

Monday 5 April 2021

Sale Sharks took the honours from Monday’s A-Team friendly at Kingston Park Stadium, with both squads given valuable game time.

The visitors led 10-5 at the interval and managed to hang on despite Newcastle spending much of the second half in the Sale's red zone, failing to turn a heavy penalty count into sufficient points.

Amid freezing temperatures and high winds both sets of players found handling tough, but the Falcons committed to running from deep and made some early in-roads with a couple of tackle-busts from Luther Burrell.

Newcastle’s maul defence stood up to the challenge when Sale kicked a penalty to the left corner and left without return, although the home side were similarly frustrated when their own maul failed to deliver points from five metres out.

That penalty had been earned after a period of flowing red-zone pressure which included some super running lines from Will Haydon-Wood and Burrell, the delivery of Callum Pascoe and Joel Matavesi seeing the ball finding the wide channels.

Cooper Vuna’s line-break and offload from a midfield scrum threatened to break the deadlock as the sides remained pointless on the half-hour mark, but despite having supporting numbers the subsequent phases saw the Sharks snaffling a turnover and clearing to safety.

Sale finally broke the deadlock on 33 minutes when centre Joe Bedlow scored an unconverted try in the right corner, the Falcons defending the pick-and-go threat but just running out of defenders when the ball was passed down the blindside.

The Falcons drew level within four minutes when Cooper Vuna collected Matavesi’s long, looping pass 20 metres out down the left, and through a combination of pace and power managed to find his way over the try-line.

Matavesi’s touchline conversion bounced back off the left post to leave the teams level at 5-5, but the home side trailed 10-5 at the break after hooker Ewan Ashman scored from a catch-and-drive in the left corner.

Sale added to their lead three minutes after the resumption when full-back Elliot Gourlay collected an inside pass to score down the right despite the Sharks seeming to have stepped into touch earlier in the move – Keiran Wilkinson adding the conversion.

The Falcons grew into the half and began a dominant period of red-zone pressure, Sale’s repeated infringements near their own line eventually seeing a man sent to the sin bin when Rouban Birch pulled down a maul.

The hosts made the extra man count when Burrell scored in the left corner, taking the ball powerfully at first receiver down the short-side following a period of pick-and-go pressure.

Joel Matavesi converted brilliantly from the touchline despite the strong wind, but Sale nudged their lead out to eight points around the hour mark when Wilkinson slotted a penalty from 25 metres out in front.

It proved to be the last scoring play despite Newcastle enjoying the greater territory and possession in the closing stages – the home side just unable to convert pressure into points.

Newcastle Falcons A: 15 Will Haydon-Wood, 14 Morgan Passman, 13 Chidera Obonna, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Joel Matavesi, 9 Callum Pascoe; 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Robbie Smith, 3 Mike Daniels, 4 Will Montgomery, 5 Rob Farrar, 6 Josh Basham, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Tom Marshall.

Replacements: Charlie Maddison, Phil Brantingham, Oscar Caudle, Rodney Ah You, Charlie Richards, Freddie Lockwood, Guy Pepper, James Blackett, Zach Kerr, Matty Ward, Iwan Stephens, Louie Johnson.

Scorers - Tries: Cooper Vuna, Luther Burrell. Conversions: Joel Matavesi.

Sale Sharks A: 15 Elliot Gourlay, 14 Jack Metcalf, 13 Connor Doherty, 12 Joe Bedlow, 11 Aaron Reed, 10 Keiran Wilkinson, 9 Will Cliff; 1 Valery Morozov, 2 Ewan Ashman, 3 James Harper, 4 JP du Preez, 5 Rouban Birch, 6 Ewan Murphy, 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 Jordan Trebatt.

Replacements: 16 Josh Brown, 17 Andrew Foster, 18 Ben Carlile, 19 Jack Rouse, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Nye Thomas, 23 James Kane.

Scorers - Tries: Joe Bedlow, Ewan Ashman, Elliot Gourlay. Conversions: Keiran Wilkinson. Penalties: Keiran Wilkinson.

Referee: Andrew Jackson.

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