Sonatane Takulua

Newcastle Falcons 19 Sale Sharks 17

Friday 2 September 2016

Newcastle Falcons won on day one of the Aviva Premiership for the first time in nine years, holding off northern rivals Sale Sharks at Kingston Park Stadium.

Dan Mugford's last-minute missed penalty sealed the victory as the home side held on, the replacement firing wide with the very last kick.

The Falcons led 10-3 at the midway stage having seized the early initiative, Vereniki Goneva enjoying an energetic debut with a string of line-breaks inside the first five minutes as he got in at first receiver.

The former Leicester man was solid as a rock under the high bomb, his side 3-0 up on nine minutes when Mike Delany’s simple penalty from in front of the posts rewarded their territorial dominance.

The home side’s attacking ambition was clear as they took a quick 22 drop-out to keep the ball in hand, Sinoti Sinoti and Simon Hammersley getting their hands on the ball.

Sinoti turned his hand to defensive duties with some eager ruck work to win a turnover inside his own half, Sale gaining a foothold when AJ MacGinty slotted a penalty from close range following an earlier miss from further out.

The American’s hack-through forced a brief moment of panic as Juan Pablo Socino dotted down to relieve the pressure, Newcastle made to wait until the 35th minute for their first try of the season.

It was a fine effort when it came, though, Evan Olmstead’s turnover on the Sale 22 setting in motion an attack which ended when Socino broke the line and drew the last man to feed Sinoti in the left corner.

Delany made the touchline conversion look simple as Newcastle took a seven-point lead into the break, doing so after a tremendous spell of defensive discipline as the Sharks knocked on the door with no result to show for it.

A lively start to the second half saw the home side drawing first blood as Jon Welsh’s line-break and a Sale infringement teed up a simple penalty for Delany to extend the lead to 10, although it did not last long as Johnny Leota’s diagonal running line saw the centre scoring down the left.

Dan Mugford, on for the injured AJ MacGinty, slotted the conversion from wide out, the players forced to take a lengthy injury stoppage when Taione was stretchered from the field.

Upon resumption of play the Falcons took immediate advantage, a dominant scrum forcing a penalty which Delany duly slotted from 45 metres out. The Kiwi repeated the trick when Sale infringed again on 55 minutes, Newcastle’s defensive discipline rewarded with a number of key turnovers as the Sharks attacked without joy.

But the visitors got back to within sniffing distance on 70 minutes when Mugford’s well-weighted grubber allowed full-back Byron McGuigan to score in front of the posts, Mugford’s conversion narrowing the deficit to two.

Opeti Fonua and Dominic Waldouck entered the fray for the closing seven minutes as Newcastle tried to hold off their visitors – a task they managed through Mugford's late miss as they started the campaign with a well-deserved win.

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino (Dominic Waldouck, 72), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Jon Welsh, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Taione Vea (Alex Rogers, 50), 4 Calum Green, 5 Will Witty (Opeti Fonua, 72), 6 Evan Olmstead, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Mark Wilson.

Falcons scorers - Tries: Sinoti Sinoti. Conversions: Mike Delany. Penalties: Mike Delany 3.

Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Will Addison, 13 Sam James, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Nev Edwards, 10 AJ MacGinty (Dan Mugford, 40), 9 Mike Phillips; 1 Eifion Lewis-Roberts (James Flynn, 55), 2 Rob Webber (N Briggs, 31), 3 Halani Aulika (Kieran Longbottom, 55), 4 Bryn Evans, 5 Andrei Ostrikov (Jonathan Mills, 60), 6 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 TJ Ioane, 8 Laurence Pearce (David Seymour, 47).

Sale scorers - Tries: Johnny Leota, Byron McGuigan. Conversions: Dan Mugford 2. Penalties: AJ MacGinty.

Referee: Greg Garner. Attendance: 5,523.

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