Newcastle Falcons slipped to third in their European Challenge Cup group after Friday’s defeat to Lyon at Matmut Stadium, Paul Bonnefond running in a hat-trick for the home side
Despite the game running away from them later on the Falcons exhibited an obvious appetite for adventure and profited from this ambition as early as six minutes in, when an attack from their own 22 saw Alex Tait race from 22 to 22 before feeding Daniel Temm for the unconverted score.
Lyon replied with physical forward runners, prop Sami Mavinga the man to draw them level when his close-range burst from the fringes of a ruck in the right corner. Romain Loursac’s conversion nudged the home side ahead by two, Newcastle probing through the speed of Sam Egerton at scrum-half and the hands of Fred Burdon in midfield.
Alex Tait, again lively in the wide channel, grubbered dangerously ahead only for a Lyon hand to ground the ball in goal, Newcastle turning down a kick at goal in favour of a line-out which failed to find its man.
Lyon seized back the initiative, building phases around half-way before scrum-half Baptiste Couilloud darted through the centre before finding Bonnefond on his shoulder for a simple run-in.
Jerome Porical converted for a nine-point lead, Newcatle bringing prop Andrew Foster onto the field following an injury-enforced departure for David Wilson. Not that their attacking instincts had been curbed, Zach Kibirige among their willing runners despite a penalty count which was gradually beginning to go against them.
It was from one such penalty that Lyon’s third try arrived just before the half-hour, a kickable penalty turned down in favour of a close-range line-out from which lock Felix Lambey scored down the blind-side. The metronomic Porical converted from wide right, Lyon scrambling to safety and maintaining their 21-5 lead at half-time when Nick Civetta charged down their first attempt at clearing Newcastle’s deep restart.
Unperturbed by the deficit facing them, the visitors began the second half brightly via Egerton’s sniping run before winning a scrum penalty from the first set-piece – Rob Vickers making an early impact after his interval introduction.
The prop made an even bigger dent on 46 minutes with a trademark try from a close-range ruck down the left after Burdon’s sensational inside line had got them in behind, Connon’s conversion pulling his team to within nine.
Lyon were exhibiting a similar desire to attack, as demonstrated by right wing Franck Romanet as he returned Egerton’s box kick through some dog-legged defence to within a metre of the try-line. The Falcons held out on that occasion, Mike Delany and Dan Marshall entering the fray for the final quarter as an increasingly scrappy game cried out for some structure.
Burdon and Egerton were doing their best to provide it with incisive forays through the line, but the home crowd rose as one on 70 minutes when Bonnefond’s second try, this time from an 11-man maul, delivered the crucial bonus point.
Replacement Dan Marshall caught the eye as Newcastle kept fighting, but when Agustin Figuerola’s supporting line brought him a try on 75 minutes followed by Bonnefond’s hat-trick score at the death, their challenge was over.
The two teams meet again at Kingston Park Stadium on Sunday December 18 (kick-of 3pm).
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick (Dan Marshall, 57), 14 Alex Tait, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Fred Burdon (captain), 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Brett Connon (Mike Delany, 57), 9 Sam Egerton; 1 Alex Rogers (Rob Vickers, 40), 2 Ben Sowrey (David Nelson, 60), 3 David Wilson (Andrew Foster, 26), 4 Mouritz Botha, 5 Nick Civetta, 6 Glen Young, 7 Daniel Temm, 8 Harrison Orr (Mark Wilson, 62).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Daniel Temm, Rob Vickers. Conversions: Brett Connon.
Lyon: 15 Jerome Porical, 14 Franck Romanet (Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 60), 13 Paul Bonnefond, 12 Thibaut Regard, 11 Henry Clunies-Ross (Pierre-Louis Barassi, 19), 10 Romain Loursac, 9 Baptiste Couilloud (Agustin Figuerola, 70); 1 Sami Mavinga, 2 Ti'i Paulo (Cameron Mapusua, 65), 3 BJ Botha (Tornike Mataradze, 65), 4 Felix Lambey, 5 Maselino Paulino (Christian Njewel, 51), 6 Deon Fourie(captain), 7 Dylan Cretin, 8 Curtis Browning (Didier Tison, 70).
Lyon scorers - Tries: Sami Mavinga, Paul Bonnefond 3, Felix Lambey, Agustin Figuerola. Conversions: Jerome Porical 6.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland).