Grit, determination and character saw Newcastle Falcons under-18s come from behind to defeat Leeds Carnegie 19-17 on a mild February lunch time at Druid Park.
Sean Brown’s second-half display was the catalyst, as he broke Leeds’ defensive resistance to set-up fellow explosive winger Zach Kibirige for a late try that secured a valuable victory.
Newcastle’s resolve in defence was put to the test early on with a string of Carnegie attacks putting the hosts on the back-foot. Leeds scrum-half Sam Gaudie was orchestrating affairs with his sharp turn of pace and he went close to crossing the whitewash on eight minutes with a clean break.
However, a resolute Falcons defensive line stood firm and the Yorkshiremen were awarded a scrum five-metres from the try-line.
From the resulting scrum the visitors broke the deadlock through centre Josh Walters, who took advantage of a two man overlap on the far side to touchdown. Max Green failed with the touchline conversion and Leeds led 5-0.
Despite the early set-back the Falcons rallied well with the centre combination of Luke Wilson and Tom Small demonstrating neat distribution.
Leeds went close to doubling their tally for the afternoon when Glen Young sold a dummy before racing clear down the near side, but the towering lock was thwarted by a scrambling Falcons’ rear-guard.
With the half-hour mark looming, promising winger Brown punctured a hole in the Leeds backline with a clinical line break, but the former Sunderland Academy goalkeeper was tackled 10-metres from the line.
Two minutes later Brown was at the heart of things once more when he combined with fellow wing-man Kibirige down the far side to get the Falcons into perfect field position. From the breakdown the ball was switched to the middle of the park where the heavies carried forward, before No.8 Nick Cairns eased in under the posts. Craig Willis made no mistake with the extras to give his side a 7-5 lead.
The northeasterners’ slender lead was short-lived though, and two minutes from the interval Leeds winger Dan Tai raced in under the sticks. Green slotted home the conversion and Leeds went into the break 12-7 ahead.
10 minutes into the second period and the Falcons were playing with confidence with ball in hand as they looked to gain the upper hand. No.15 Tom Penny was leading by example from the back with his composure and assurance visible to the eye.
On 50 minutes, however, Gaudie was again in the thick of activity at half-back as he touched down from close range following a series of Leeds drives. Fly-half Green failed to get enough curl on the conversion and Leeds were 17-7 in front.
The impressive Brown continued his strong showing and broke the Leeds defensive line for the second time in the game on 53 minutes, and despite good support the Falcons could not capitalise.
Fly-half Willis had the chance to reduce the gap to within a converted try with a penalty 30-metres out after Carnegie were penalised for holding on at the ruck. Willis skewed the penalty wide of the uprights and Leeds kept their 10 point advantage.
Leeds No.10 Green missed a penalty 25-metres out to the right of the posts on 64 minutes and the Falcons were very much still in the contest.
And in the contest they certainly were when Brown scooted from midway inside Leeds’ half, fending off three defenders to squeeze in at the corner to the delight of the healthy crowd including Falcons first team coaches and backroom staff. Penny took over the kicking duties, and his sublime touchline conversion made it 17-14 with 15 minutes remaining.
And eight minutes from time Brown again showed his potency in attack, coming off his wing to dart infield and sprint clear, before offloading to Kibirige whose pace was no match for his opposite number as he touched down right in front of Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards. Penny failed with the conversion but it paled into insignificance as the North East club held on to a confidence-boosting triumph.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Penny, 14 Sean Brown, 13 Tom Small, 12 Luke Wilson, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Ollie Warner, 1 Aston Whitlow, 2 Ben Wilkinson, 3 Jake Taylor, 4 Glen Young, 5 George Hedgley, 6 Oli Hodgson, 7 Stuart Cannon, 8 Nick Cairns
Replacements: 16 Curtis Fletcher, 17 Mark Foster, 18 Callum Shelson, 19 George Innes, 20 Jon Coser, 21 George Jirka Lacina, 22 Eldon Myers, 23 Jack Blakeney Edwards
Leeds Carnegie: 15 Nick Rawsthorne, 14 Rob Rekis, 13 Cam Leadley, 12 Josh Walters, 11 Dan Tai, 10 Max Green, 9 Sam Gaudie (Scott Lee, 62), 1 Toko Tedoradze, 2 Jack Walker, 3 Paul Hill, 4 Declan Dunn, 5 Dan Preston-Routledge, 6 Josh Bainbridge, 7 Jack Barnard, 8 Dan Grange (Ash Handley, 62)
Replacements: 16 Issac Cracknell, 17 Will Witty, 18 Brodie Wilson, 19 Josh Burridge, 20 Ash Handley, 21 Scott Lee