Positive performance for Falcons in opening pre season friendly
DIRECTOR of rugby Dean Richards was pleased with the overall effort despite his Newcastle Falcons side losing 26-25 in Bayonne on Thursday night.
Tries from Sinoti Sinoti, Ally Hogg, Scott MacLeod and Scott Wilson were indicative of an ambitious playing style in which Newcastle looked to move the ball around, Richards unperturbed after the missed conversion which ensured his side ended up on the wrong end of the scoreline.
“On the whole there were a lot of positives to be taken out of it,” said Richards, whose side entertain Rotherham on August 23.
“We have just got to show a little more patience in attack, because sometimes we just pushed it a little bit too much and we turned it over.”
Scott Wilson's 76th minute try gave Rory Clegg a touchline conversion to win an open and evenly-contested game, but his effort bounced back off the post.
It mattered little after a cohesive team performance which produced three tries, Newcastle putting in a solid pre-season work-out ahead of further games against Rotherham and Edinburgh.
The Falcons began the game in convincing fashion, Phil Godman's boot camping them in the Bayonne half where some ambitious offloading repeatedly got them over the gain-line.
Richard Mayhew's back-row running punched holes in the fringe defence, and a solid set-piece offered a tangible platform despite loose-head Alex Rogers being a last-minute call-up on loan from Blaydon.
The former Harlequin looked at home in a competitive scrummaging unit, Newcastle's line-out dominating too as Scott MacLeod pinched a key ball on his own try-line after Bayonne turned down a kickable penalty.
The visitors by this stage were 3-0 up, Jamie Helleur's cutting line-break and offload to Danny Barnes seeing a panicking Bayonne defence forced to concece a penalty at a ruck just inside the 22.
That gave Godman the chance of a straightforward penalty, and the experienced Scot made no mistake.
Some suitably confrontational tackling from Sinoti Sinoti ensured Bayonne were given no easy yards, but the Frenchmen increasingly got themselves into the half and had a 19-13 lead by the time the interval arrived.
First over the try-line was Marvin O'Connor, the lively winger benefiting from spaces out wide on the left after a catch-and-drive in the right corner sucked in the numbers.
Full-back Martin Bustos Moyano curled in the touchline conversion for a 7-3 lead, MacLeod putting the Falcons back ahead with a try in the right corner as a scrappy period of play saw a loose ball popping up in the hands of the big Scot.
Former New Zealand star Joe Rokocoko slowly began to show his class as the home side grew, his offload putting scrum-half Guillaume Rouet in for a try between the posts after sustained pressure inside the visitors' 22.
Bustos Moyano again added the extras, Newcastle avoiding further tries against by virtue of Sean Brown's defensive scramble until Rokocoko's offloading game created another killer gap.
This time it was Bustos Moyano who was the beneficiary, the Argentinean diving in at the left corner before his touchline conversion banged out off the right post.
A frantic first half was not done yet though, Newcastle having the last say as an attack in the right corner saw the ball swiftly and effectively moved to the opposite wing.
In the end it was a perfectly-weighted pass which gave Sinoti a glimmer of the line, and the prolific Samoan was up to the task as he stepped the last man to score for a six-point half-time deficit.
Dean Richards rang the half-time changes as the director of rugby emptied his bench, and three of the replacements made an instant impact as Adam Powell's line-break breached the Bayonne defence.
From the resulting penalty Newcastle opted for the scrum, Clegg dummying his man and putting Ally Hogg through a hole to score between the posts.
Clegg's conversion put the Falcons ahead at 20-19, but Andy Saull's sin-binning and a penalty try from a period of re-set scrums gave Bayonne a lead which was to prove too much.
Scott Wilson's burrowing drive for a try in the left corner after a penalty was kicked into touch saw Newcastle giving themselves a kick to win it, but Clegg's effort rebounded back off the right post to leave the visitors one adrift.
Nonetheless, they could can look back on a performance full of positives, and one which bodes well for the coming season.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: L Smith, S Brown, D Barnes, J Helleur, S Sinoti, P Godman, W Fury; A Rogers, G McGuigan, O Tomaszczyk, D Barrow, S MacLeod, M Wilson, W Welch (captain), R Mayhew. Replacements: R Hawkins, E Fry, S Wilson, C Green, A Hogg, M Blair, R Clegg, A Powell, A Saull, S Hammersley.
Sin-bin: A Saull (65).
Facons scorers – Tries: S Sinoti, A Hogg, S Wilson. Conversions: R Clegg. Penalties: P Godman.
BAYONNE: M Bustos Moyano, J Elissalde, J Rokocoko, M Ugalde, M O'Connor, B Stewart, G Rouet; L Pointud, A Etrillard, G Muller, D Senekal, M Chisholm, J Monribot, P Gayraud, D Haare. Replacements: A Iguiniz, G Arganese, G Jgenti, L Fa'aoso, P Taele, B Chouzenoux, C Ancely, J Marmouyet, C Loustalot, S Fernandez, Sayerse, G Lovobalavu, G Larrart, C Otazo, JC van Rensburg, B Duhalde.
Bayonne scorers – Tries: M O'Connor, G Rouet, M Bustos Moyano, Penalty try. Conversions: M Bustos Moyano 2, C Loustalot.