A strong second-half showing helped Newcastle Falcons get their pre-season campaign off to a flying start against Championship side Nottingham at Darlington’s Northern Echo Arena on Saturday.
Leading 14-5 after a well-contested first half, Newcastle assumed full control after the interval in a performance which sets the team in good stead for the season to come.
It was Nottingham who drew first blood inside the second minute when a two-on-one down the left flank saw wing Josh Skelcey dotting down an unconverted try, the Midlanders emerging from an early period of kick-tennis with a successful foray on the counter-attack.
Among Newcastle’s early livewires was Belisario Agulla after intercepting on his own 22 and looking to advance. And on 15 minutes it was the Argentinean centre who put Newcastle into the lead when line-breaks from Sinoti Sinoti and Taione Vea got the Falcons in prime position. Patient phase play and a super inside ball from Chris Harris freed Agulla for a try on the diagonal, Mike Delany’s conversion putting his side two ahead.
Enjoying greater possession during the second quarter, Newcastle began to take more of a leading role in the game as hooker Ben Sowrey charged down the field on a straightening line after a series of quick passes. The move eventually fizzled out, but there was no stopping the debutant when he steered a driving maul over in the left corner for his side’s second try.
Delany converted impressively from the touchline, the Falcons turning their hand to defensive duties on 40 minutes when limpet-like maul work from Calum Green forced a turnover, followed by a dominant scrum to earn a relieving penalty.
In the search for valuable game time Newcastle made multiple changes at half-time and throughout, Joshua Chisanga and Evan Olmstead among the players making their first-team debuts as director of rugby Dean Richards shuffled his pack. And the latter was at the heart of the third try when his close-range line-out take enabled another replacement, Scott Lawson, to score from a maul in the left corner.
Craig Willis’ conversion thudded back off the left post but his side were controlling the play, Callum Chick adding their fourth try when a line-out in the left corner saw Juan Pablo Socino making a midfield burst. Chick was on hand to drive over from close range, the Under-20s World Cup winner grounding against the base of the post with Willis converting.
The points kept coming as Canada lock Evan Olmstead marked his Falcons debut with a well-taken try in the right corner, the forward showing plenty of toe as he sped in like a winger. That brought the third quarter to an end with Newcastle 31-5 up, minus the services of Adam Powell following the replacement centre’s injury-enforced exit.
Second-half captain Will Welch grounded try number six when he athletically dotted down Delany’s perfectly-weighted grubber to the right corner, Newcastle going through their playbook with a steady supply of ball.
Fine support play earned Chisanga a debut try when the Kenyan was in the right place to profit from Will Witty’s line-break, Nottingham finding a second touch-down when slick footwork from Will Millett saw the replacement step through in the 75th minute.
But it was the Falcons who had the last say on the scoreboard with the final play of the day, Ruaridh Dawson supporting Mark Wilson’s break as Delany’s conversion ensured the half-century.
Newcastle Falcons are next in action on Saturday August 13 when they host Greene King IPA Championship finalists Doncaster Knights at Kingston Park Stadium (kick-off 3pm). This match is included in the Falcons’ 2016-17 season ticket membership package. Non-season ticket members can gain entry for £20 premium seating, £10 standard seating or standing and £5 for under-16s. To book call 0871 226 6060.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Chris Harris, 13 Belisario Agulla, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany (captain), 9 Sam Egerton; 1 Jon Welsh, 2 Ben Sowrey, 3 Taione Vea, 4 Calum Green, 5 Nick Civetta, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Tyrone Holmes, 8 Callum Chick.
Replacements: Scott Lawson, Alex Rogers, Paddy Ryan, Evan Olmstead, Will Welch, Ruaridh Dawson, Craig Willis, Adam Powell, Will Witty, Joshua Chisanga, Brett Connon.
Falcons scorers - Tries: B Agulla, B Sowrey, S Lawson, C Chick, E Olmstead, W Welch, J Chisanga, R Dawson. Conversions: M Delany 4, C Willis.
Nottingham: 15 Billy Robinson, 14 Sam Yawayawa, 13 Joe Cobden, 12 Oli Evans, 11 Josh Skelcey, 10 Lawrence Rayner, 9 Darryl Veenendaal; 1 Kieran Davies, 2 TJ Harris, 3 Tom Heard, 4 Tom Holmes, 5 Toby Freeman, 6 Rob Langley, 7 Matt Everard, 8 Ben Morris.
Replacements: Derrick Appiah, Morgan Eames, Jordan Coghlan, Murray McConnell, Calum Hall, Conor Bullivant, Harry Morley, Josh Poullet, Will Millett, Jamie Jack, Ben Brownlie, Joe Green, Ben Davies-Moore, George Cox, Jacob Nash, George Trimmer, Will Sutton.
Nottingham scorers - Tries: J Skelcey, W Millett. Conversions: W Millett.
Referee: John Meredith Attendance: 1,271