Newcastle Falcons ‘A’ Team succumbed to a 29-13 defeat against Northampton Wanderers at Percy Park on Monday afternoon.
The Falcons, who blooded a number of youngsters for this physical of battles, including three schoolboys, were undone by a strong second-half display from the East Midlands club.
Starting brightly, the Falcons took an early 3-0 leady courtesy of a Waisea Luveniyali penalty after referee Wayne Falla penalised Northampton for not rolling away at the breakdown.
On 14 minutes the Falcons extended their advantage to 8-0 thanks to a James Hamilton try following a penetrating line-break from Tynedale full-back Chris Harris. Full tilt, the Carlisle-born academy product offloaded under considerable pressure to Jamie Sole, who in turn fed Michael Tait. Two phases later Hamilton applied the finish, busting through three would-be tacklers on his way to the line.
Newcastle spent the rest of the first period camped in their own 22 due to the heavy winds that were battering the East coast venue. Tynedale stalwart Graham Dunn and George McGuigan both stood out in defence. With half-time looming the Falcons’ rigorous defensive resolve was eventually breached when Ken Pisi crossed the whitewash down the right flank. England Under-20’s Will Hooley converted to reduce the deficit to 8-7.
The Falcons’ task was made more difficult when openside flanker Ben Morris was sin-binned for offside.
Coming out for the second stanza a man light, the Falcons introduced Michael Mayhew and Jordi Pasqualin to the fray.
But under the cosh, Northampton drove the Falcons back towards their own line to take control of the game, and on 53 minutes Pisi doubled his tally for the afternoon. The Samoan international winger scored a carbon-copy of his first score to put Northampton 12-8 in front. Hooley failed to convert.
Moments later Northampton’s front-row replacement Danny Hobbs crashed over as the visitors asserted their authority from a driven lineout. Again, Hooley was unable to add the extras with the Falcons now trailing 17-8.
James Ponton rang the changes with 20 minutes left on the clock. No.8 Nick Cairns (Tynedale and Prudhoe High School) and fly-half Craig Willis (Billingham and Durham School) both came on for their senior debuts alongside Blaydon centre Sam Hanks.
And Willis made an immediate impression, showing deft hands to put fellow Falcons Under-18s prodigy through a gap. With 10 minutes remaining Northampton touched down. Against the run of play Ryan Glynn’s grubber kick into the in-goal area was met by Jack Allcock for the five-point score. Glynn missed the conversion with Northampton in the ascendancy at 22-8.
Ponton made his last change of the affair, giving Blaydon youngster Trevor Davison a taste of the action at loose-head prop. Two minutes later Suka Hufanga scored in the corner after a trademark line-break from James Fitzpatrick. Willis pinged the ball out wide to Hufanga, who raced in from 20 metres. Willis’ touchline attempt cannoned off both posts ‘Jimmy Gopperth style’ but fell the wrong side of the crossbar.
22-13 behind, Northampton sealed their victory through a Tiemama Harrison try with Glynn adding the conversion to bring up a final score of 29-13.
Academy manager Mark Laycock was upbeat despite a disappointing second-half, saying: “Given the circumstances with the weather and the fact that the game had been moved from Doncaster to Percy Park overnight, anything could have happened.
“The lads did extremely well in the first-half, and probably wore themselves out through their defensive effort. The more senior players have been really good in supporting the younger lads, and there is really good camaraderie throughout the club at the moment.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who ensured that the game went ahead. Percy Park for providing us with a venue, and the three officials Wayne Falla, Will Halford and Fraser Gill are just a few of those who went the extra mile.”
Newcastle: 15 Jamie Sole, 14 Chris Harris, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Michael Tait, 10 Waisea Luveniyali, 9 Andy Davies, 1 James Hallam, 2 George McGuigan, 3 James Hall, 4 Graham Dunn, 5 Glen Young, 6 James Hamilton, 7 Ben Morris, 8 Chris York (c)
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, Trevor Davison, 18 Nick Cairns, 19 Ollie Stedman, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Craig Willis, 22 Sam Hanks
Northampton: 15 Tom Collins, 14 Ken Pisi, 13 Tom Stephenson, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Vasily Artemyev, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Alex Day, 1 Tom Warren, 2 Mikey Haywood, 3 Ethan Waller, 4 Tom Hicks, 5 Mark Sorenson, 6 Sam Dickinson, 7 Tiemama Harrison, 8 Rhys Oakley
Replacements: 16 Ross McMillan, 17 Danny Hobbs, 18 Danny Herriott, 19 Daryl Dyer, 20 Jack Allcock, 21 Ryan Glynn, 22 Alex Wooton, 23 Anders Mogensen