Newcastle Falcons go joint top of Pool 3 in the Amlin Challenge Cup after a convincing bonus point victory over Cammi Rugby Calvisano at Kingston Park.
Scores from Zach Kibirge, Chris York a Noah Cato double and a penalty try put the Italian club to the sword as Dean Richards’ men staked their claim to a quarter-final spot ahead of the return clash abroad next week.
A 37-15 triumph was just the tonic for the Kingston Park outfit following last week’s disappointment at the hands of Harlequins, and while the display was far from polished, the Falcons will be hoping to kick-on in the away tie with three crucial games looming over the festive period.
Rory Clegg and Kelly Haimona exchanged a penalty apiece inside the opening quarter with neither side getting a foothold of the game early on. The Falcons went close to breaching the visitors’ rear-guard midway into the first period when Andy Saull, back from injury, charged down Haimona’s clearance kick to set-up an attack. James Fitzpatrick pounced on the loose ball to form a ruck, before the ball was spun wide to Ryan Shortland on the overlap, but the Kiwi wing ace was bundled into touch with the try line at his mercy. Referee Cedric Marchat brought play back for an earlier Calvisano infringement, and Clegg added the three points from bang in front to put the northeasterners 6-3 ahead.
Keen to assert their authority on proceedings with their 6-3 lead intact, Falcons winger Kibirige had the Kingston Park faithful on their feet when he darted in for a well-taken try. Clegg’s neat kick into the corner put pressure on the Italians with the Falcons pack winning the turnover to feed the Teesside prodigy for the score. Clegg converted to put Richards’ men 13-3 in front.
With the half hour mark approaching, Newcastle crossed for their second try of the afternoon when Cato sidestepped his marker for the score. But the try was made in Wales as Swansea-born No.9 Warren Fury scampered half-the-length of the field to give his side perfect field position for Cato to cruise in under the posts. Clegg’s conversion made it 20-3 with the Falcons looking very much in control of affairs.
But back came the men from Lake Garda with an immediate response by virtue of a Michele Visentin score in the corner after a neat dab downfield from scrum-half Simon Picone. The centre latched onto Picone’s kick to slide over the whitewash and reduce the arrears to 20-8 with the conversion to come. Haimona was unsuccessful with the kick and the home side still had a handsome 12 point cushion.
It could have been so much more on the stroke of half-time had the Falcons made use of a five man overlap with the extra player in their ranks having seen visiting half-back Picone sin-binned for a professional foul at the ruck. However, the looping pass to Shortland was parried by a Calvisano defender and Mr Marchat blew up for the break as tensions were seemingly boiling over between both sets of players.
Newcastle got off to the best possible start after the interval, registering their third try of the afternoon two minutes into the restart thanks to a penalty try. Winning the penalty a whisker away from Calvisano’s line, the Falcons elected to pack down and their dominance came to the fore to earn the five points. Clegg’s simple two points increased the Tynesiders’ margin to 27-8.
And on 50 minutes it got even better for the Falcons when Chris York sealed the try bonus point, taking an exquisite pass from Saull following a charge down, to bullock over for the try in front of the South Stand. Clegg cannoned the upright with the conversion, and that would be his final act as he made way for fellow academy product Joel Hodgson at fly-half.
With an hour played and with the travelling support from northern Italy in fine voice, the Italian contingent in the stand were rewarded for their arduous trip when Braam Steyn crashed over. Edging closer and closer to the line with a series of drives, the ball was soon switched to Steyn who did the rest for a converted try.
On 67 minutes Cato bagged his brace to make sure the spoils belonged to the Falcons, with Chris Pilgrim’s inch-perfect pass providing the ammunition for the former Saracens and Northampton Saints man.
The Falcons next home game is on Friday 27 December against London Wasps in the Aviva Premiership with tickets still available by calling the Falcons Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060 or click here to purchase online.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Alex Crockett (c), 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Harrison Collins, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Chris York
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Rob Vickers, 19 Will Welch, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Alex Tait
Calvisano: 15 Ben De Jager, 14 Pablo Canavosio, 13 Andy Vilk, 12 Tommy Castello, 11 Michele Visentin, 10 Kelly Haimona, 9 Simon Picone, 1 Andrea Lovotti, 2 Luigi Ferraro (c), 3 Lorenzo Romano, 4 Michele Andreotti, 5 Agustin Cavalieri, 6 Nicola Belardo, 7 Maxime Mbanada, 8 Braam Steyn
Replacements: 16 Andrea Gavazzi, 17 Luca Scarsini, 18 Salvatore Costanzo, 19 Paino Hehea, 20 Stefano Scanferla, 21 Paul Griffen, 22 Alberto Chiesa, 23 Alberto Bergamo
Referee: Cedric Marchat (FRA)