The Aviva Premiership now lies in wait for Newcastle Falcons after they rounded off their pre-season campaign with a 15-5 defeat to Edinburgh Rugby on Friday evening.
Mansfield Park, home of Hawick RFC played host to the fixture as Dean Richards’ men geared up for next Friday’s clash with Bath Rugby at Kingston Park.
No sooner had the pipe band finished their portfolio of tunes during the pre-match entertainment that the Falcons were on the front foot with Mike Blair orchestrating things from scrum-half.
Starting the contest well, Scott MacLeod’s barn-storming carry left three Edinburgh defenders in his wake to give the visitors the momentum to win a penalty in front of goal.
However, former Edinburgh man Phil Godman sliced his kick wide of the far upright and the score remained 0-0.
Despite looking the more likely to strike the first blow, it was the Murrayfield club who got on the scoreboard first with two quick-fire Greig Laidlaw penalties to make it 6-0. Fraser McKenzie who had a solid game in the pack was penalised for a shoulder charge to give Laidlaw his first pop at goal before referee Neil Paterson blew his whistle moments later for an infringement 25 metres from the Falcons’ line.
Experienced campaigner Blair lit up Mansfield Park with a scintillating 35 metre dart through the heart of the Scots’ defensive line. Sidestepping his opposite number with ease, Blair was hauled down just outside the hosts’ 22 with Jamie Helleur unable to take advantage of quick ball at the ruck.
Will Welch came off with a knock and was replaced by fellow local boy Mark Wilson just short of the half hour mark. And the Kendal-born back-row was immediately called into action with a fine defensive display coming to the fore.
Edinburgh responded to Blair’s break in positive fashion, pressurising the Falcons’ rear-guard for the rest of the half. Grant Gilchrist and Sean Cox were making good yards upfront for the men from the Scottish capital, and with five minutes remaining of the first-half Edinburgh earned a penalty directly in front of the posts which Laidlaw duly converted for a 9-0 interval lead.
Newcastle came out for the second period sharply and went close to making a breakthrough when a sweeping passing move from right to left almost provided Ryan Shortland with the opportunity to score in the corner. Concerted Falcons pressure ensued, and following a series of phases, Edinburgh centre Nick De Luca was given his marching orders for 10 minutes for killing the ruck.
From the resulting scrum, the Falcons travelling contingent thought their side had crossed the whitewash thanks to Tom Catterick, but the full-back was adjudged to have knocked-on over the line. Newcastle finally got their reward for their adventure in attack two minutes later with Godman taking a neat pass from Blair to touchdown in the far corner. Godman failed to add to his score with the touchline conversion and the Falcons trailed 9-5.
Godman attempted a drop-goal moments later in a bid to close the gap but it was Alan Solomons troops who controlled the remainder of the game with two further penalties putting the game to bed.
Piers Francis took over the kicking duties from the departed Laidlaw, and he edged Edinburgh further ahead on 65 minutes with a penalty from 35 metres out after the Falcons were given offside.
Francis increased the deficit to 15-5 after Alex Tait failed to release the ball after been tackled, and the RaboDirect Pro12 outfit kept their 10 point advantage intact to seal victory.
Edinburgh Rugby: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Dougie Fife, 12 Nic De Luca, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c), 1 Alasdair Dickinson, 2 Ross Ford, 3 WP Nel, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 5 Izac van der Westhuizen, 6 Sean Cox, 7 Roddy Grant, 8 David Denton
Replacements: 16 Aleki Lutui, 17 Lewis Niven, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 23 Ben Atiga, 24 Dimitri Basilaia
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Andy Higgins, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Matt Thompson, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dominic Barrow, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Adam Powell, 24 Alex Tait
Referee: Neil Paterson