Newcastle Falcons A team recorded an impressive 45-15 win against a strong Durham University side at Blaydon RFC on Monday night.
Last year the university pushed the Falcons all the way but ended up losing 22-19 in an extremely tight contest. This time round, however, a brace from winger Sean Brown on his debut, coupled with tries from centre James Fitzpatrick and back-row Chris York helped propel Newcastle to a much more convincing victory.
Newcastle started strongly, building the phases with strong carries in the forwards before Fitzpatrick broke the line. The Falcons looked certain to score before Durham full-back Simon Hammersley intercepted the final pass and cleared the ball up field.
Durham then began to mount an attack of their own. Playing at a fast tempo they spun the ball from side to side before winger Murray Galbraith-Lowe found some space out wide to touch down in the corner. Fly-half Dave Treglown missed the conversion.
From the restart Durham continued to attack, marching into the Falcons’ half. Unfortunately for the students, they received no reward for their endeavour. What appeared to be a double knock on went unnoticed by the referee and the alert Sean Brown showed amazing pace to beat the scrambling defence and score under the posts. Fly-half Waisea Luveniyali added the conversion to make the score 7-5 to the hosts.
Undeterred Durham again mounted another attack, aided in part by a string of penalties given away by the Falcons. However, yet again, they were punished after a simple handing error gave Sean Brown another chance to show his pace. This time the 18-year-old pounced on the loose ball and ran 80 metres to score his second.
After the restart a Newcastle infringement gave Durham possession in the Falcons’ 22. From this they mounted a powerful drive which second-row Nick Haigh scored from.
With the score at 14-10 Newcastle knew that a strong reply was needed. They regathered possession and used an attacking line-out in the opposition half to set up a driving maul of their own with Chris York crossing the whitewash. York added another try to his tally just minutes later when a strong Falcons attack left space out wide. Centre Grant Connan found York with a long looping pass allowing him to stroll over for his second touchdown.
With just a few minutes left in the first-half, repeated infringements at the ruck meant that Newcastle were back in their own 22. Eventually second-row Sean Tomes paid the price for his side’s indiscipline and was sent to sin bin for 10 minutes. However, Durham were unable to capitalise on their one man advantage and so the half ended 26-10 to the Falcons.
After the break Newcastle dominated the territory. A poor Durham clearance kick and a strike play from a lineout meant that Fitzpatrick was able to use his considerable weight to crash through the Palatinate centres to score two quick-fire tries. Fitzpatrick looked certain to score a third as expansive running rugby from inside the Falcon’s own half seemed to have left space for the rampaging centre. The referee, however, judged there to have been blocking in the build-up play. Durham were awarded a penalty which they gladly cleared to touch.
A few moments later the Falcons had found their way into the Durham half once again. A penalty and kick to touch gave them the opportunity to set up a driving line out 5 meters from the Durham try line. This time loose-head prop James Hallam benefitted from the hard work of the Newcastle forwards with a try against his old university team mates.
The intense physicality of the game continued with Durham flanker Jamie Bache and Newcastle flanker James Hamilton both requiring treatment after nasty knocks to the head. With the Newcastle bench depleted through injury, full-back Chris Harris became an honorary forward for the last quarter when he stepped in at flanker at scrum time.
With 15 minutes to go Durham made wholesale changes and mounted one final attack. Replacement fly-half Basil Strang put in an impressive kick to give them a five meter line out. They successfully set up a drive which second row Bennett Johnson touched down from. With conversion pushed wide this left the final score at 45-15.
Ultimately the students were made to pay for their mistakes, especially in the first half. It will hopefully prove a useful learning experience for them as their 1st XV and 2nd XV approach the knockout stages of their BUCS competitions.
From a Newcastle perspective it was a satisfactory win for a side that has not played together since they faced Worcester Cavaliers in mid-October. They will hope to build on this performance in their remaining fixtures against Leeds Carnegie A and Aberdeen University.