Dean Richards’ tenure at Newcastle Falcons gets better and better after his side made it seven wins out of seven in the RFU Championship with victory over Rotherham Titans.
With the snow teeming down before kick-off, it was safe to say that a long hard winter was drawing in for the North East.
Tries from Rory Lawson, Scott MacLeod, Jonny Golding and Zach Kibirige secured the bonus-point triumph as the Falcons continued their quest for an immediate return to the Aviva Premiership.
The Falcons struck the first blow on eight minutes courtesy of an audacious Jimmy Gopperth penalty from almost halfway. Rotherham were penalised for not rolling away at the ruck and the Kiwi goal-kicking sensation made no mistake to put his side three-up.
Gopperth repeated the feat two minutes later, this time to the right of the posts to keep the scoreboard ticking over at 6-0.
In bizarre circumstances the visitors went close to responding immediately, after James McKinney’s cross-field kick stopped just short of touch with winger Peter Homan almost capitalising on some indecision in the Falcons backline.
With the half-hour mark looming, Gopperth converted his third successive penalty of the night from bang in front of the posts to extend the Falcons’ lead to 9-0. Tane Tu’ipulotu was tackled high following some creative flair from Tom Catterick, and the Falcons No.10 did the rest.
In keeping with the theme of the first-half, Gopperth attempted a fourth penalty 12 minutes from half-time, only for his effort to cannon off the far post. The rebound trickled dead in goal with Alex Crockett and Gopperth ready to pounce.
But the northeasterners got their try eight minutes from the break when Lawson squeezed in at the corner. The pack set the platform with the likes of Golding, Rob Vickers and Will Welch carrying hard on the right hand side, before the ball was switched to the left for Lawson to celebrate his Scotland call-up with a try.
Gopperth added the extras for a 16-0 lead. More indiscipline from the South Yorkshiremen at the ruck gave Gopperth the chance to add gloss to the score-line four minutes before half-time. However, the New Zealander skewed his kick wide.
On the stroke of half-time Lawson’s fellow countryman MacLeod crashed over from close range after Richards’ men underlined their dominance in the pack. Gopperth turned down the chance of three points, instead kicking into the corner, and from the resulting lineout the Falcons formed an effective rolling maul for MacLeod to score.
Gopperth failed to convert and the Falcons went into the break 21-0 ahead. On an Arctic evening in the North East, the majority of the Kingston Park crowd warmed the cockles with a pint of real ale at the interval.
And as the North East and Cumbria faithful returned to their position in the stands, the Falcons conjured up their third score of the evening by virtue of a Golding drive over try. Touted by Richards as a possible candidate for an England Saxons berth, former Titans prop Golding burrowed his way over the line following some great line-out play. Gopperth pulled the conversion wide of the near post and the Falcons led 26-0.
On 52 minutes the crowd were on their feet when teenage prodigy Kibirige intercepted a pass inside his own 22, before wowing fans with his electric pace down the right to seal the bonus-point. The Middlesbrough-born wing, who turns 18 this Sunday, could not hide his delight as his teammates mobbed him. Gopperth converted from the touchline with aplomb to make it 33-0.
Buoyed by the bonus-point try, the North East club grew in confidence with ball in hand as they looked to play an expansive style of rugby. Quick hands in the backline involving Tu’ipulotu and Crockett set Catterick free down the near side, only for the academy product to be thwarted by a scrambling Titans rearguard.
As the clock struck the hour mark, a blizzard had well and truly hit Kingston Park hard, with fans braving the cold much to their credit.
There were no signs that the deluge of snow was going to ease off and the game petered out with the Falcons winning 33-0 to record their ninth straight victory in all competitions.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Zach Kibirige, 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 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch, 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Chris York 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick
Rotherham Titans: 15 Fergus Mulchrone, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Lee Blackett, 12 Gary Law (c), 11 Eamonn Sheridan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Nile Dacres, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder
Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Gareth Denman, 18 Jamie Kilbane, 19 Joe Ellyatt, 20 Mike Doneghan, 21 Ed Styles, 22 Charlie Mulchrone