Zach Kibirige scored two interception tries

Falcons A 37 Northampton A 12

Monday 9 April 2018

Newcastle Falcons’ second-string continued their impressive run of form by dispatching A-League leaders Northampton Wanderers at Kingston Park Stadium on Monday night.

The two teams went into the game already knowing their fate, Northampton guaranteed top spot with the Falcons nailed on in second, facing an away semi-final at Exeter or Harlequins.

Newcastle opened the scoring just three minutes in when fly-half Juan Pablo Socino hammered over a long-range penalty from the right, the home side surviving a scare near their own try-line by stealing a Northampton line-out after the visitors had been awarded a close-range penalty.

Jamie Blamire’s eager ruck work earned a relieving penalty for Newcastle near their own line, and they extended their lead to double digits within a minute when winger Ben Stevenson hared between the posts from the 22.

Socino added the extras from in front, Northampton’s desperation for points seeing them attempt a drop-goal from 30 metres out, only to see it charged down by home captain Ryan Burrows.

The Falcons were having no such worries posting points on the board, claiming another seven of them when Zach Kibirige raced 80 metres for an interception try on 26 minutes, again converted by Socino.

They almost found a third try when Cameron Cowell’s break on halfway got them in behind, Cowell sending an inside pass to James Elliott, whose pass to Maxime Mermoz was knocked on. But the home side did extend their half-time lead to 20-0 with the very last kick of the opening 40, Juan Pablo Socino chipping a penalty between the posts from left of centre on the 22.

Northampton began the second half with the greater territory and possession, winning a succession of penalties in the home half but failing to convert their close-range line-outs as the Falcons’ defence held firm.

Referee John Meredith sent home scrum-half Elliott to the sin bin for not rolling away at a ruck near his own line, but from the resulting five-metre scrum the Falcons scored their third try, Kibirige repeating his first-half trick by snaring a midfield interception and sprinting from his own 22 to the try-line.

Joel Matavesi converted, Newcastle’s line-out and maul defence rising to the challenge as Northampton tried and failed to convert several close-range throw-ins.

The visitors eventually found a try on the hour mark when replacement Will Allman crashed over from the fringes of a ruck, James Grayson converting, but the Falcons chipped off another three as Joel Matavesi slotted a penalty from the 22.

Flanker Gary Graham entered the fray for the closing quarter in his first appearance since being injured in England’s Six Nations training, but his side shipped a second try when Matt Beesley was driven over from a maul in the left corner.

The Falcons responded with a penalty try when a maul down the right was illegally halted, bringing with it the bonus point, in what was the last score of the evening.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Ben Stevenson, 10 Juan Pablo Socino, 9 James Elliott (Leeds Beckett University); 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 Jamie Blamire, 3 Jake Ilnicki, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Ryan Burrows (captain), 7 Callum Chick, 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 Alistair Blackett (RGS & Alnwick RFC), 17 Sami Mavinga, 18 Jack Payne, 4 Max Davies, 20 Gary Graham, 21 Cameron Cowell, 22 Joel Matavesi, 23 George Wacokecoke (Northumbria University).

Scorers - Tries: Ben Stevenson, Zach Kibirige 2, Penalty try. Conversions: Juan Pablo Socino 2, Joel Matavesi. Penalties: Juan Pablo Socino, Joel Matavesi.

Northampton Wanderers: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Tom Collins, 10 James Grayson, 9 Tom Kessell; 1 Alex Waller, 2 Charlie Clare, 3 Matt Collins, 4 Alex Moon, 5 Devante Onojaife, 6 Lewis Ludlam, 7 Paddy Ryan, 8 Mitch Eadie.

Replacements: 16 James Fish, 17 Matt Beesley, 18 Toby Trinder, 19 Will Allman, 20 Fraser Strachan, 21 Tom Emery, 22 Jamie Elliott, 23 Juan Pablo Estelles.

Scorers - Tries: Will Allman, Matt Beesley. Conversions: James Grayson.

Referee: John Meredith.

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