Newcastle Falcons bowed out of the Aviva A-League at the semi-final stage on Monday night after a 48-15 defeat to Exeter Chiefs.
Argentinean centre Belisario Agulla scored both of Newcastle’s tries, one in each half, Newcastle having trailed 22-10 at the break.
Ireland Under-20s fly-half Brett Connon added a penalty and conversion, but the Chiefs had too much for their visitors as they booked a place in the final against Northampton.
Full-back Chrysander Botha helped himself to a hat-trick in a strong performance from the Chiefs’ second-string, the Devon side also seeing two tries from Michele Campagnaro and one each for Ben White, Elvis Taione and Byron McGuigan.
Falcons’ academy director Mark Laycock said: “Exeter deserved to go through and played well on the night, but we shot ourselves in the foot and handed them some easy tries.
“Two of their first-half tries were from poor kick and kick-chases, one was from a driven line-out and when we managed to score our first try we conceded from a charge-down virtually straight from the restart. They scored four quite easy tries before half-time, we struggled to get in the game making a lot of mistakes, but in the second half we started to play a little bit more how we train.
“That was much better and the game opened up – we created quite a lot of chances but butchered a lot of them. They had the upper hand in the scrum but our line-out went pretty well. It was a frustrating game, but the guys who came off the bench made a positive impact. The two tries we scored, we took them both well, and as the game went on we got better. We were slow out of the blocks and showed rustiness early on, but Exeter took their chances and deserved to go through.”
Reflecting on the season as a whole, Laycock added: “All in all getting to the semi-finals was a decent achievement and there have been a number of good performances along the way. I don’t think we did ourselves justice on the night, but in games like this it’s about what you learn from it. We have to remember the experience and get something out of it.
“This season has some really encouraging performances in the A-League, both individually and collectively. It probably came down to losing at Northampton by four points which meant we had to go away in the semi-finals, and letting a big lead slip away when we played Sale. But our comeback at Gloucester was excellent, the way we demolished Worcester was very pleasing and we have achieved some good results over the campaign.
“It has been quite a journey, the lads have overcome lots of different challenges but unfortunately Exeter away was just one step too far. We will regroup for next year, give it another go and look to put into action the lessons we have learned from this campaign.”
NEWCASTLE FALCONS A-TEAM: Dan Marshall, Giovanbattista Venditti, Belisario Agulla, Juan Pablo Socino, Alesana Tuilagi, Brett Connon, Sonatane Takulua; Ben Harris, Scott Lawson (captain), Kensuke Hatakeyama, Will Witty, Harry Snowdon, Joshua Chisanga, Todd Clever, Ally Hogg.
REPLACEMENTS: David Nelson, Adam Brocklebank, Eric Fry, Seb Ferreira, Santiago Socino, Joe Craggs, Ruaridh Dawson, Adam Redman.
EXETER: Chrysander Botha, Max Bodilly, Michele Campagnaro, Tom Hendrickson, Matt Jess, Will Hooley, Haydn Thomas; Brett Sturgess, Elvis Taione, Carl Rimmer, Ollie Atkins, Lewis Stevenson, Tom Johnson, Ben White, Kai Horstmann (captain).
REPLACEMENTS: Shaun Malton, Jake Woolmore, Alex Brown, Ed Holmes, Sam Simmonds, Stu Townsend, Byron McGuigan, Pete Laverick.