Newcastle Falcons remained comfortably at the top of the Aviva A-league last night after a hard fought victory away to Sale Jets last night.
Fresh from a 19-3 win at home to Bristol United last weekend, the Falcons A-team were looking to make it three from three and retain their place at the top of the league as they travelled to Manchester on Monday night.
Tries from James Christie and Joe Craggs, as well as the faultless boot of Rory Clegg, helped the Falcons A team notch up a 20-10 win against the North West side in a physical game that saw both sides striving for the result.
Starting the game with an early penalty, the visiting side went straight on the attack but were denied an early lead thanks to a forward pass close to the line. Sale looked dangerous as they attempted a breakthrough of their own but a strong Falcons defence continued to keep the home side at bay.
With ten minutes gone however the deadlock was broken, the Falcons caught for an offside and the subsequent penalty allowing Sale to take the first three points of the evening against the run of play.
And less than five minutes later the home side were able to build on their lead when an intercept on the halfway line allowed them to advance up the pitch and score their first try of the game straight under the posts.
Things quickly got heated during a thrilling phase of play which saw both sides penalised for repeated errors as the ball travelled back and forward up the pitch. But ten minutes from half time it was the Falcons’ turn to make inroads, Rory Clegg slotting home the visitors’ first points of the night.
The Falcons ended the first half in strong form, close to scoring not one but two tries but struggling to make the final pass on both occasions. A scrum close to the try line could have given the Falcons the draw at half time but another knock on left the score at 10-3 going in for the break.
Heading out for the second half the home side were straight back in the game, choosing to kick for the sticks with a penalty 40m out and emerging undeterred from the subsequent miss to get back on the attack.
But big carries from the Falcons put the squarely back in possession and a penalty allowed Clegg to reduce the deficit to 10-6.
What followed was an exciting and entertaining ten minutes of rugby, the Falcons gaining the upper hand with a more focussed performance although both teams struggled to convert their physicality into points.
Twenty minutes into the second half Danny Barnes looked to have broken the deadlock but was forced into touch by the Sale defence. And with the home side a man down after three consecutive penalties, the Falcons tried to capitalise with a second run for the line but were again dragged into touch.
But with ten minutes remaining it was James Christie who put the Falcons ahead, adding his name to the scoreboard with the visitors’ first try of the game , swiftly converted by Clegg
And only two minutes later AASE student Joe Craggs added to the tally picking up the final try of the night on his first outing for the Falcons A Team. Clegg once again added the conversion in the dying minutes of the game to set the score at 10-20 to the league leaders.
Falcons Academy Manager Mark Laycock said: “We got another win and are starting to build our confidence, but from a coaches perspective there were elements of the performance that weren’t right and we need to get those right because we’re a better team than we showed at Sale.”
Although disappointed with the first half performance, Laycock was proud of a more focussed second half which allowed his team to reclaim the game, hailing a number of players for their out performances.
“Oliver Tomasczyk had a good performance for us and he made quite a few strong carries. Will Witty put in another good shift and Alex Tait ran hard from the wing. Lee Smith did a good job of distributing the ball and Jamie Helleur was back with some of the massive tackles we saw last week.”
One player who came in for particular praise was 17 year old Joe Craggs. Currently dual registered with Darlington Mowden Park, the AASE student picked up a try in the dying minutes of his debut game.
“We’re delighted to get another win and I’m especially delighted for Joe – to score a try on his debut is an ideal start, particularly at such a young age.”
A special mention for the evening goes to Back Row Dan Temm. Having picked up an injury during last Monday’s game against Bristol, Temm stepped into the breach as the Falcons’ official tweeter for the evening, providing one of the club’s most entertaining Twitter commentaries in recent times. Visit the @FalconsRugby Twitter page for the full feed.
Newcastle Falcons A Team are next in action against Gloucester at Kingston Park next Monday, 29 September (ko 7pm). Fans are welcome to watch the match free of charge with limited free parking also available on the night.
Newcastle Falcons A-Team vs Sale Jets 1. Alex Rogers, 2. Rob Hawkins, 3. Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4. Glenn Young, 5. Will Witty, 6. Brian Tuilagi, 7. Andy Saull (c), 8. Richard Mayhew, 9. Dan Taylor, 10. Rory Clegg, 11. Alex Tait, 12. Jamie Helleur, 13. Tom Penny, 14. Danny Barnes, 15. Lee Smith.
Replacements: 16. David Nelson, 17. Eric Fry, 18. Mark Irving, 19. Joe McKenzie (Westoe RFC), 20. Joe Craggs (Darlington Mowden Park), 21. James Christie, 22. Craig Willis, 23. Sean Brown.
Scorers Tries: James Christie, Joe Craggs Conversions: Rory Clegg (2) Penalties: Rory Clegg (2)