Newcastle Falcons’ blistering start to their campaign under the stewardship of Dean Richards continued with victory at Connacht in the British and Irish Cup tonight.
Running in six tries, the Falcons’ travelling contingent had every reason to celebrate, as the Kingston Park outfit made it eight wins out of eight in all competitions this season.
Richards’ men gained the initiative as early as the third minute when Oliver Tomaszczyk finished off a rolling maul to put his side 5-0 ahead. Awarded a penalty midway inside the hosts’ half, Jimmy Gopperth elected to kick to the corner.
From the resulting lineout, Scott MacLeod received clean ball from hooker Rob Vickers, before the Falcons pack steamrollered their way to the line. Gopperth pulled the conversion wide.
Connacht soon reduced the deficit courtesy of a Tadhg Leader penalty following an infringement at the ruck. But the northeasterners, who looked to play an expansive style of rugby from the start, registered their second try of the game on 14 minutes thanks to an Ally Hogg drive over score.
A carbon-copy of the first try, the Falcons pack were certainly in the mood in front of a boisterous travelling contingent. Gopperth failed to convert and the Falcons led 10-3.
The Kiwi fly-half was not to be denied his name on the score sheet when he stretched over to touchdown under the posts just before the half hour mark. Impressive lineout play yet again enabled Rory Lawson to feed Tane Tu’ipulotu, who in turn passed to Gopperth for the try. Gopperth made no mistake with the extras to make it 17-3.
Back came the Eagles with a series of industrious attacks as the Galway club looked to unlock the Falcons’ rearguard. The centre combination of Tadhg Leader and Brian Murphy were asking questions of the North East defensive line, but Richards’ troops stood firm.
With the last play of the half Connacht had the chance to close the gap by virtue of a Leader penalty, but the No. 12 sliced his kick wide of the upright.
Newcastle began the second period in positive fashion and were unlucky not to touchdown on 44 minutes when Lawson threw a dummy and darted through a gap before offloading to Hogg who was hauled down just short of the line.
At the breakdown the Falcons were awarded a penalty and the ball was moved swiftly to the right where full-back Alex Tait eased in at the corner to secure the bonus-point try. Gopperth arrowed the conversion across the face of goal and the Kingston Park outfit were in command at 22-3.
From one rapid back to another, winger Andrew Higgins was the next Falcons player to add his name to the score-sheet. Marching immediately back up-field from the restart, the pack set the perfect platform for the backline to make use of a three-man overlap on the near side. Gopperth was unable to convert and the Falcons held a 27-3 advantage.
On 59 minutes, forwards coach John Wells will have been beaming from ear to ear when the pack rubberstamped their dominance at the scrum to earn a penalty try. Gopperth slotted home from bang in front of the posts to extend his side’s lead to 34-3.
With 15 minutes to go Scott Wilson got his second taste of senior rugby following his start against Cross Keys last week. The academy product came off the bench to replace Tomaszczyk who had given his all.
Despite a flurry of Connacht attacks in the final minutes of the game, the Falcons closed the game out to claim a 34-3 away triumph.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Andy Higgins, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Richard Mayhew
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Suka Hufanga
Connacht: 15 Matthew Jarvis, 14 Shane Layden, 13 Brian Murphy, 12 Tadhg Leader, 11 Steve Macauley, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Marcus Walsh, 1 Finlay Bealham, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 3 Rodney Ah You, 4 Mick Kearney, 5 Danny Qualter, 6 TJ Anderson (captain), 7 Eoghan Grace, 8 Eoin McKeon
Replacements: 16 Peter Reilly, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Jonathan Gardiner, 19 Dave Heffernan, 20 Mark Dolan, 21 Conor Finn, 22 Darragh Leader