A late Thomas Laranjeira penalty all but sealed Brive’s place in the quarter-finals of the Amlin Challenge Cup, meaning Newcastle Falcons are now relying heavily on Cammi Rugby Calvisano to upset the odds with a victory at Brive next week to ensure their progression to the knockout stages.
Edged out 9-7 by a dogged French outfit, the Falcons struggled to adapt to the crumbling surface which put paid to many scrums during the game.
Joel Hodgson, who was handed his first start of the campaign, had the opportunity to open the scoring inside ten minutes with a penalty 35 metres out. However, despite having the length, the former RGS pupil could only pull his attempt wide.
Starting the contest in a positive fashion, Dean Richards’ men went within metres of crossing the whitewash just short of the 20 minute mark. From a scrum midway inside Brive’s half, Fitzpatrick acted as a decoy to allow Ryan Shortland to come in field and crash through the visitors’ rear-guard at will only for the move to break down thanks to a scrambling French defensive line.
Hodgson missed with his second penalty of the evening on 26 minutes, this time his effort cannoned the near post, and the black and whites escaped unscathed to keep the scores level at 0-0.
The academy product was made to pay moments later when Brive fly-half Thomas Laranjeira landed a 35 metre penalty after Rob Vickers was penalised for not releasing at the ruck. 3-0 ahead, the travelling supporters, randomly draped in super hero costumes and ski masks were in fine voice as they soaked up the atmosphere on Tyneside. But their enthusiasm was short-lived as they saw their side reduced to 13 men with both Apisai Naikatini and then Kieran Murphy sent to the bin five minutes before the interval. And the Falcons made the most of the extra men, capitalising in the scrum to earn a penalty try. Following their fourth successive scrum reset, Mr Davies’ patience wore thin and the five point score was awarded. Hodgson made no mistake with the extras from bang in front to give his side a 7-3 half-time lead.
Returning to the field with 13 men in their ranks, Brive demonstrated their resilience to register the first score of the half courtesy of a Laranjeira penalty, and the French side were soon back to their full complement with Newcastle unable to score further points against the 13 men of Brive.
The hardy Kingston Park crowd thought they had crossed for their second try of the evening when Scott Wilson crashed over from close range, but the prop, who was today selected in the England Under-20s squad alongside fellow teammate Zach Kibirige, was adjudged to have been held up.
On 56 minutes Laranjeira uncharacteristically missed two penalties in quick succession, before replacement winger Noah Cato went close to breaching Brive’s defence in the corner. A series of carries from the likes of Sean Tomes and Will Welch coupled with a scoot from scrum-half Warren Fury got the northeasterners to within a whisker of the try line before the ball was spun wide to Cato who was unable to squeeze in for the try.
Seven minutes from time it was hearts in mouths for many fans on the terraces when referee Mr Davies went upstairs to the television match official after Brive No.8 Murphy burrowed over on the charge. Murphy took a neat pass from centre Baptiste Delage who broke the line, but Fury and skipper Will Welch held the back-rower up over the whitewash.
However, from the resulting scrum Brive won the penalty and points machine Laranjeira nailed his kick to put his side 9-7 in front with five minutes remaining. Newcastle had two set-pieces to conjure something up with time running out, but the French Top 14 club stood firm to secure their place amongst the elite in the last eight.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Chris York
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 James Hallam, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Andy Saull, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Noah Cato
Brive: 15 Anderson Neison, 14 Alfifeleti Mafi, 13 Baptiste Delage, 12 Thomas Laranjeira, 11 Sevanaia Galala, 10 Romain Sola, 9 Damien Neveu, 1 Damian Lavergne, 2 Louis Acosta, 3 Johanes Coetzee, 4 Simon Pinet, 5 Apisai Naikatini, 6 Said Hireche (c), 7 Fabien Laurent, 8 Kieran Murphy
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Yusuf Tuncer, 19 Victor Lebas, 20 Hughes Briatte, 21 Thomas Sanchou, 22 Guillaume Namy, 23 Malakai Bakaniceva