Newcastle Falcons booked their place in the British and Irish Cup semi-finals with a comfortable 72-17 victory over Nottingham Rugby at Kingston Park.
It was the third meeting between the two sides with the Falcons taking the spoils on the two previous occasions in the RFU Championship. And Dean Richards’ men continued the trend with a scintillating brand of rugby on the luscious Kingston Park turf.
With the semi-final draw taking place on Monday morning, Falcons fans will be waiting with baited breath to see who they have in the last four of the competition as the club strives to do the double.
Jimmy Gopperth had the chance to give his side the lead with a penalty just a minute into the contest, but his effort skewed wide of the upright despite having the distance.
Nottingham had the first clear-cup opportunity with ball in hand through full-back James Stokes. Centre Andy Forsyth was the architect offloading to Stokes who darted towards the line before being hit with a fierce tackle from Gopperth.
After the move came to nothing referee Tim Wigglesworth brought play back for an earlier infringement, and the Green and Whites elected to kick for goal from 25 metres out. However the resulting penalty from fly-half Rory Lynn failed to hit the target and the score remained 0-0.
Following a stop-start opening to the game, which saw the medical team enter the fray to treat Falcons’ Taiasina Tu’ifua and Nottingham’s Joe Quinn, the northeasterners edged in front thanks to a Gopperth penalty.
This was just the platform for Newcastle, and immediately from the restart Ryan Shortland raced in for a try under the posts. Giving the ball width, Tom Catterick spurted down the short side before drawing his man to unleash last week’s man-of-the-match to the line. Gopperth slotted home the conversion for a 10-0 lead.
Two minutes later and centre Jamie Helleur doubled the Falcons try tally, intercepting a pass five metres inside Nottingham’s half to touchdown. There was no catching the Samoan hit-man and Gopperth added the extras to increase Newcastle-s advantage to 17-0.
With the half-hour mark looming the Meadow Lane outfit got themselves on the scoreboard by virtue of a Lynn penalty in front of the posts after Newcastle were penalised for offside.
Continuing the theme of the evening, the Falcons responded in emphatic fashion and were in for try number three on 31 minutes. Gopperth’s grubber kick in behind the visitors’ rear-guard was latched onto by Catterick, who grabbed his brace.
Like teammate Catterick, Shortland was in fine attacking fettle and combined with the aforementioned for a superb score eight minutes from the interval. Gopperth’s conversion out wide cannoned the post and the Falcons had the supremacy at 29-3.
On the stroke of half-time Shortland knocked-on five metres from his own line after receiving a pass from scrum-half Warren Fury, and Nottingham second-row Quinn pounced on the loose-ball to crash over. Lynn made no mistake with the extras to reduce the deficit to 29-10 going into the break.
Six minutes into the second period and the Falcons were in the try-scoring groove once more with Gopperth getting in on the act. Scything past three would-be tacklers 10 metres from the Green and Whites’ line, the Kiwi fly-half dashed in to nail on another five points. Gopperth converted his own score to make it 36-10.
On 50 minutes the Tyneside club passed the 40-point mark with Mark Wilson crossing in the corner in front of the South Stand. A strong hit-up from Grant Shiells gave the Falcons the impetus before the ball was switched wide to the Kendal-born back-row. Scott MacLeod who has been in sublime form this campaign showed nimble hands in the build-up.
Arguably the try of the match, the Falcons punctured holes in the Nottingham defensive line on 58 minutes to score in the far corner. Catterick showed his opposite number a clean set of heels with a sharp burst of pace down the far touchline with Shortland close in support. The New Zealander was thwarted just short of the line but somehow managed to get the ball away to Fury for an easy touchdown. Gopperth’s conversion made it 46-10.
Another converted try soon followed on 64 minutes through Alex Tait with his first touch of the ball after coming on as a replacement. Noah Cato demonstrated his explosive attacking prowess, breaking the East Midlands club’s backline to feed Tait.
The Falcons brought up the 60 point mark with 13 minutes left on the clock with Richard Mayhew finishing off a well-worked try. Academy product Scott Wilson showed his upper body strength to shrug off three Nottingham defenders with a 20 metre drive, and at the breakdown the Falcons conjured up the try-scoring chance for Mayhew senior.
To their credit Nottingham rallied and crossed for a sucker-punch try from the restart with centre Andy Forsyth intercepting replacement fly-half Joel-Hodgson’s pass to coast in under the sticks. Lynn’s easy conversion pegged the Falcons’ lead back to 60-17.
Dismayed at throwing an intercept pass, Hodgson made amends moments later, and how. The former RGS pupil backed-up an Ollie Stedman break to score. Hodgson, who took over the kicking duties from Gopperth, was unable to add the two points, but the Falcons held a commanding 65-17 lead.
Hodgson was in again with less than two minutes of the game remaining, scooting in with ease before converting to extend the northeasterners’ advantage to 72-17.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 James Hall, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 7 Mark Wilson, 8 Ally Hogg (c)
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Richard Mayhew, 19 Ollie Stedman, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Tait
Nottingham Rugby: 15 James Stokes, 14 Jack Bradford, 13 Joe Cobden, 12 Andy Forsyth, 11 Ryan Hough, 3 Ryan Bower, 4 Joe Quinn, 5 Tom Price, 6 Phil Eggleshaw, 7 Tom Calladine (c), 8 Alex Shaw
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Dan Montagu, 20 Rubert Cooper, 21 Sean Romans, 22 Joe Munro
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth
Man-of-the-match sponsored by Sanctus: Scott MacLeod