Newcastle Falcons began their British and Irish Cup campaign with a comprehensive victory over Cross Keys at Kingston Park.
Debutants Zach Kibirige and Scott Wilson had solid outings against the Welsh outfit as the Falcons made it seven wins out of seven this term.
Hot prospect Kibirige showed no signs of pre-match nerves in the early exchanges, skipping through the Cross Keys defensive line with ease following a sweeping attacking move involving Alex Tait and Suka Hufanga.
Kibirige was hauled down 10-metres from the line, but with five minutes on the clock Michael Tait touched down in the corner thanks to some nimble handwork from centres Hufanga and Jamie Helleur.
Marauding drives from forwards Mark Wilson and Will Welch set the platform, before the ball was flung wide to Michael Tait. Waisea Luveniyali, who took over the kicking duties from the rested Jimmy Gopperth failed to convert and the Falcons led 5-0.
Kibirige, who set the tone for the game with his trickery in attack, got his name on the score sheet on 12 minutes.
Fly-half Luveniyali was the architect, breaking through the Welsh rearguard to feed the Yarm School pupil, who left three Cross Keys defenders in his wake with a clean set of heels to sprint in under the posts. Luveniyali added the extras to put his side 12-0 in front.
It was soon 19-0 to the hosts when Taiasina Tu’ifua crashed over from close-range for a converted try, after the Falcons underlined their dominance at the scrum. Ushering the ball towards Cross Keys’ try line, the giant Samoan scooped up the ball to touchdown. Luveniyali made no mistake with the conversion to extend the Falcons’ advantage.
With half-time looming, the Kingston Park crowd witnessed the sorry sight of Cross Keys inside centre Luke Ford being stretchered off with a leg injury. That seemed to galvanise the Welsh outfit as they looked to carve a way through a steely Falcons defence. Full-back Gareth David showed penetration with ball in hand to scurry past his opposite number Alex Tait, but his neat offload was knocked-on by winger Elliot Jones.
On the stroke of half-time Richards’ men conjured up their fourth try of the game courtesy of skipper Will Welch. With the visitors enjoying a rare sight of the Falcons try line, the northeasterners turned defence into attack in a flash.
Jones’s knock-on was hacked deep down-field by Luveniyali with Kibirige giving chase to force Nathan Trowbridge to touch the ball down in goal. From the resulting scrum, Grant Shiells and Matt Thompson had strong carries to enable Welch to squeeze in at the corner.
Luveniyali fell just short with the conversion and the men from the north went into the break 24-0 ahead.
With barely five minutes on the clock in the second period Hufanga took an inside pass five-metres from the line to cross in style. Luveniyali’s conversion made it 31-0.
Kibirige continued to terrorise Cross Keys’ defence, ghosting through a gap on 67 minutes to set-up an attacking opportunity. Alex Tait and Scott MacLeod were each thwarted by a scrambling rearguard just inches from the line.
Awarded a five-metre scrum, the Falcons again showed their supremacy at the scrum to earn a penalty try which Luveniyali converted for a 38-0 lead.
From the restart Cross Keys replacement Ryan James was given his marching orders for persistant infringement at the ruck. Hodgson kicked into the corner with the penalty and from the resulting lineout, Hodgson hit Helleur with a flat pass to unleash the Samoan to scoot in under the posts. Hodgson’s simple conversion made it 45-0.
On 75 minutes Kibirige was denied a double for the afternoon when he gathered a looping pass on the wing, before dashing in at the corner only to have been adjudged to have had his foot in touch.
But the Kingston Park troops would not be denied a minute later as replacement hooker Michael Mayhew bulldozed his way through to score. Hodgson nailed the conversion from bang in front of the posts to put his side 52-0 in front.
Coasting to victory, the Falcons will have been unhappy to have conceded a late try courtesy of Dorian Jones. Jones took advantage of a three man overlap to touchdown before failing to convert his own score. However it paled into insignificance as the Falcons ran out 52-5 victors.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Michael Tait, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Waisea Luveniyali, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 James Hall, 18 James Hudson, 19 Chris York, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick
Cross Keys: 15 Gareth David, 14 Elliot Jones, 13 Luke Williams, 12 Luke Ford, 11 Nathan Trowbridge, 10 Dean Gunter, 9 Rhys Dyer (c), 1 Anthony Lott, 2 Gary Horrigan, 3 Craig Gould, 4 Danny Hodge, 5 Ollie Hodge, 6 Rhys Peebles, 7 Gerwyn Price, 8 Adam Powell
Replacements: 16 Sean Higgins, 17 Jamie Sollis, 18 James Johnstone, 19 Scott Matthews, 20 Jonathan Lewis, 21 Dorian Jones, 22 Ryan James