Newcastle Falcons had to dig deep into their reserves of patience and fitness to chisel out a Championship Cup victory away to Jersey Reds in Saturday’s season-opening fixture.
Leading 6-3 at the half-way stage of a scrappy encounter, they found their mojo in the closing quarter to begin the 2019-20 on a positive footing.
Newcastle enjoyed a dominant start to the game with the first two scrums delivering penalties for the visitors, the second of which was sent between the posts by Toby Flood on six minutes for the first points of the season.
Sean Robinson was making life difficult for Jersey in the line-out with a succession of steals, although the Falcons were dealt an early blow when Tom Penny was forced from the field with a head knock after just 13 minutes.
Jersey lost prop Harry Morley to the sin-bin as the scrum penalties mounted, Newcastle doubling their lead on 23 minutes when Flood struck a penalty from 42 metres out.
Home fly-half Greg Dyer halved the deficit with a simple penalty from 20 metres out in front following a high tackle, Newcastle almost finding a first try of the season on 37 minutes as they searched for a response.
A move which started behind their own try-line saw Sinoti Sinoti put away down the left wing, stepping his man and feeding Tom Arscott in a phase which was pulled back for a forward pass with the try-line gaping.
A Jamie Blamire line-break followed as the Falcons looked to find some more attacking rhythm, but there were to be no more points in the first half as the visitors led 6-3 at the interval.
Simon Uzokwe entered the fray as the visitors searched for some more forward momentum, lock Toby Salmon joining him for his debut seven minutes into a scrappy half which took its time to get going.
Uzokwe succeded in breaking the defensive line from his own 22 in a move which saw Sinoti bursting down the left, but the final pass would not stick as the play remained try-less past the hour mark.
Points were at least forthcoming with Flood sending over his third penalty, the Falcons finding greater gains on 63 minutes with a length-of-the-field try.
It all stemmed from a Michael Young kick receipt deep into his own 22, the scrum-half stepping three men before working an offload, Blamire breaking from halfway to the 22 before a quick tap penalty from Jersey old boy Sam Lockwood was fed to Wacokecoke for a run-in.
Flood converted, Newcastle finding their rhythm and almost producing a second try through Lockwood, who was pulled back for a forward pass close in.
The Reds responded when Will Homer scored an unconverted try in the left corner after the Falcons tried and failed to claim an interception, but a second Newcastle try arrived on 76 minutes when Radwan’s jinking run and pass freed Wacokecoke for his second of the day.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 Tom Penny (George Wacokecoke, 13), 12 Toby Flood, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson (Brett Connon, 72), 9 Sam Stuart (Michael Young, 50); 1 Adam Brocklebank (Sam Lockwood, 50), 2 Jamie Blamire (Charlie Maddison, 66), 3 Mike Daniels (Rodney Ah You, 50), 4 Darren Barry (Toby Salmon, 47), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch (captain, Simon Uzokwe, 40) 7 Gary Graham, 8 Callum Chick.
Falcons scorers - Tries: George Wacokecoke 2. Conversions: Toby Flood. Penalties: Toby Flood 3.
Jersey Reds: 15 Auguy Slowik, 14 Tom Williams (Will Homer, 64), 13 James Newey (George Spencer, 57), 12 Mark Best, 11 Leroy Van Dam, 10 Greg Dyer, 9 Luc Jones (Brendan Cope, 75); 1 Harry Morley, 2 TJ Harris (Jack Macfarlane, 43), 3 Alec Clarey, 4 Charlie Beckett, 5 Rory Bartle, 6 Conor Joyce (Jake Upfield, 50), 7 Josh Bainbridge, 8 Max Argyle (captain).
Jersey scorers – Tries: Will Homer. Penalties: Greg Dyer.
Referee: Matt Turvey. Attendance: 1,203.
Photo credit: Rich Chapman