Newcastle Falcons’ Aviva A League campaign came to a disappointing close in Carlisle on Monday as a spirited performance failed to overcome the challenge presented by Worcester Cavaliers.
A first half penalty from Joel Hodgson and a second half try from Dan Temm were all the Falcons had to show for an evening filled with endeavour, but sadly short on execution.
Taking the third home game of the season on the road to Carlisle RFC’s Warwick Road home, the Falcons ran out to vocal support from a strong Cumbrian crowd.
Looking to make a good start to the game, conceding a penalty almost from the kick-off, was not in the pre-match script. When the Falcons failed to retreat 10 metres as scrum-half Paul Hodgson took a quick tap penalty, the resultant second penalty was well within the range of Danny Gray who opened up the Cavaliers account.
After falling behind to the early penalty, the home team set about building a foothold in the game and, while the next 10 minutes were very much about two teams sizing each other up, the Falcons were just about edging the contest.
Resolute defending from Cavaliers was however keeping the Falcons off the scoreboard until after 17 minutes when a penalty for offside presented Hodgson with the opportunity to get the Falcons off the mark.
As the rain began to hammer down, the young fly-half made no mistake from 35 metres out to level the score.
The regained parity would last little more than five minutes, before Worcester added the first try of the evening following a prolonged period of pressure in and around the Falcons 22.
Scored directly between the posts, the conversion was a routine kick as the Sixways squad took a 10-3 lead.
An opportunity to cut the deficit was squandered on 27 minutes after Hodgson’s second kick of the night, closer and more central than the first, was dragged wide.
As the teams headed towards the break, the men in black continued to show plenty of go forward but a combination of handling errors and dogged Worcester resistance conspired to thwart their attacks, ensuring the scores remained unchanged as the teams headed into half-time.
The Falcons aim of ending their campaign with a win suffered another setback two minutes after the restart, when quick thinking from Worcester’s George de Cothi after the Falcons were penalised for holding on, saw the back take a quick tap penalty on half-way and canter up field.
Onrushing Worcester support created an overlap which was duly capitalised on by full-back Ben Howard to take the scores to 15-3 in favour of the visitors.
With a touchline conversion missed, the Falcons went looking for a response and proceeded to take a sustained period of occupying the Worcester half of the field.
The territorial dominance finally told on 52 minutes when a rolling maul from a penalty line out motored towards the line with Mark Hewitt at the bottom of the pile of bodies to register a try.
A missed conversion left matters at 15-8, however with the Falcons on top and the sheer number of opportunities being created, it seemed another score would not be long in coming to kick start the contest.
Opportunities continued to be missed as had been the case all match, either through handling errors with the greasy ball, aggressive Worcester defence or indiscipline at the key moment.
First, a fine break from winger Sean Brown was kept alive by the supporting Hodgson and then almost completed by Tom Penny, who was only halted when the attention of the Worcester scrambling defence held him just short of the line, and prevented him from finding his supporting runner.
The young winger was denied again moments later when, after making a mess of the Worcester scrum, the forwards piled towards the line. Just short, the ball bobbled out of the ruck and Penny dived over for the score, just knocking on in the process.
The final blow to Newcastle’s hope for the evening came on 38 minutes when, after finally making some territory into the Falcons half of the field, Worcester kicked a penalty to make the score 18-8.
Despite a final push from another good line out drive, the Falcons were unable to find the line.
Speaking post-match, academy manager Mark Laycock said: “It was a shame we were unable to convert the chances we created. We had a good crowd here tonight, with the rugby public in Cumbria giving us vocal backing.
“I can’t praise Carlisle enough, they have done a great job preparing the pitch for us and have been so helpful in putting this game on. It would have been nice to get a win for them for that, but sadly it wasn’t to be”
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Tom Penny, 13 Michael Tait, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Sean Brown, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Gary Strain, 2 David Nelson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Glen Young, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Ben Morris, 8 Chris York (c)
Replacements: 16 Adam Pearson, 17 James Hallam, 18 Henry Sanders, 19 Will Witty 20 Daniel Temm, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Luke Wilson
Worcester Cavaliers: 15 Ben Howard, 14 Josh Watkins, 13 Max Stelling, 12 Mike Stanley, 11 James Stephenson, 10 Danny Gray, 9 Paul Hodgson, 1 George Porter, 2 Ed Shervington, 3 Rob O’Donnell, 4 Harry Casson, 5 Shay Kerry, 6 Sam Betty, 7 Andrew Boyce, 8 James Tyas
Replacements: 16 Nick Seymour, 17 Jack Cosgrove, 18 Josh McNaughty, 19 Joe Collingham, 20 Craig Jackson, 21 Elliott Davies, 22 Tom Chapman, 23 George de Cothi