Newcastle Falcons ground out their first victory of the Gallagher Premiership season at Sixways on Saturday, scoring a pair of early tries and withstanding a rally from the home side.
Newcastle made the ideal start, Sonatane Takulua scoring after just seven minutes when he rounded off a two-on-one from Sami Mavinga’s line-break, the French prop finding space after forays from Toby Flood and Chris Harris in a move which spanned 70 metres.
Flood converted from left of centre, Newcastle fronting up in the defensive battle by winning a key maul turnover near their own line when Worcester kicked a close-range penalty into touch.
A second Falcons try arrived on 12 minutes when patient phase play just outside the home 22 saw Flood’s well-timed short ball putting Sinoti Sinoti through a hole, the Samoan international needing no second invitation to scorch a path to the posts, Flood slotting the extra two.
Superb line-speed from the Falcons was the visitors winning the gain-line battle, skipper Will Welch leading a defensive line which forced repeated errors as they cut down the Warriors’ thinking time, but the home side found their first points of the day on 21 minutes when fly-half Duncan Weir slotted a simple penalty.
Opposite number Flood drilled a grubber to the right corner as the Falcons chipped away on the yardage front, their set-piece delivering a steady platform with both the line-out and scrum providing slick ball.
Newcastle hooker George McGuigan was sent to the sin bin for an obstruction at a close-range Worcester maul, and he was joined by Johnny Williams with the last play of the half when the centre was judge by the TMO to have deliberately knocked on.
That offence was enough to see a penalty try awarded against the visitors, whose interval lead was cut down to 14-10, a margin they extended by three when Toby Flood slotted a penalty from straight in front on the 22 just four minutes into the second period.
Worcester drew level with half an hour to play when Weir chased down a Ryan Mills grubber in behind the Newcastle defensive line, the fly-half converting his own try to tie the teams up at 17-17.
Flood’s 40-metre penalty nudged the Falcons back in front when Mark Wilson was caught with a high shot on 57 minutes, the bulk of the game being played in the middle third as both sides found continuity hard to come by with the game in the balance.
It took a booming 50-metre penalty from Chris Pennell to draw the teams back together at 20-20 with 12 minutes to go, Newcastle responding straightaway when Williams’ searing line-break delivered a close-range penalty which Flood chipped over.
The Falcons withstood a late rally from the home side, keeping their composure in defence and closing down the game with textbook efficiency for a precious away victory built on character and resilience.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Adam Radwan (Tom Penny, 50), 13 Chris Harris, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua (Sam Stuart, 68); 1 Sami Mavinga (Adam Brocklebank, 73), 2 George McGuigan, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola (50), 4 Calum Green, 5 Will Witty, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (captain), 8 Callum Chick (Gary Graham, 69).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Sonatane Takulua, Sinoti Sinoti. Conversions: Toby Flood 2. Penalties: Toby Flood 3.
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem (Ashley Beck, 40), 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Duncan Weir (Jono Lance, 64), 9 Francois Hougaard; 1 Callum Black, 2 Joe Taufete'e (Jack Singleton, 50), 3 Simon Kerrod (Gareth Milasinovich, 57), 4 Pierce Phillips (Anton Bresler, 57), 5 Darren Barry, 6 Marco Mama (Alafoti Faosiliva, 57), 7 Sam Lewis, 8 GJ van Velze (captain).
Worcester scorers - Tries: Penalty try, Duncan Weir. Conversions: Duncan Weir. Penalties: Duncan Weir, Chris Pennell.
Referee: Wayne Barnes.
Pennell, Heem, Venter, Mills, Adams, Weir, Hougaard, Black, Taufete'e, Kerrod, Phillips, Barry, Mama, Lewis, van Velze
Replacements Singleton, Bower, Milasinovich, Bresler, Faosiliva, Heaney, Lance, Beck
Hammersley, Radwan, Harris, Williams, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Mavinga, McGuigan, Mulipola, Green, Witty, Wilson, Welch, Chick
Replacements Socino, Brocklebank, Payne, Cavubati, Graham, Stuart, Hodgson, Penny
referee: Wayne Barnes
assistant: Jack Makepeace
assistant: Steve Lee
TMO: Trevor Fisher