Narrow defeat for A side as Sale Jets steal the spoils at the death
Newcastle Falcons A team remain a win away from the top of the Northern Conference, despite losing out to Sale Jets at Kingston Park on Monday evening.
A last minute John O’Donnell try earned the visitors their first win of this season’s competition, although a losing bonus point and a draw elsewhere between Gloucester and Worcester sees just four points between the Falcons and the top.
Having scored three tries in the opening forty minutes, things were looking comfortable for the Falcons, but a scoreless second half proved their undoing.
Kicking off with a stiff breeze to their backs, the home side applied pressure from the outset, a period of good offensive play was rewarded with a scrum on the visitors’ 22.
The home side couldn’t make the pressure tell, conceding a penalty in the scrum allowing the Lancashire side the opportunity to clear their lines with a kick.
Sale built on the momentum, collecting the first points of the evening when number 10 Tom Morton successfully slotted over a penalty kick from inside the Falcons’ 22, making it 3-0 after as many minutes.
The game then progressed into a battle of the centre field, neither side gathering enough momentum to progress into the opposition’s half as penalties and handling errors bedevilled their efforts.
A missed Jets penalty outside of the Falcons 22 was quickly followed by a successful effort, Morton taking the score up to 0-6.
From the kick off, the Falcons put together their first meaningful period of attack and almost immediately found the spark needed to push the pace of the game with a huge hit from Will Witty.
Following the turnover, a series of strong line breaking runs from Todd Clever and Santiago Socino allowed the Falcons to head deep into the Jets 22, flanker Callum Chick crashing through the visitor’s defence to score
Brett Connon’s conversion seized the lead for the home team at 7-6, with the try seeming to further fuel the gathering momentum for the men in black.
They were instantly back on the attack, a sublime dummy from Juan Pablo Socino sparking a fantastic break down the wing, going almost the full length of the field.
The Falcons then upped the pressure with a phase of pick and drives, earning a penalty which saw Sale flanker Andy Hughes sent to the bin.
With the Jets down to 14 men the Falcons took advantage, kicking the penalty to touch for a lineout on the visitors’ five metre line. After the Jets collapsed the subsequent maul the referee had no choice but to award a penalty try to the home side, a successful conversion from Connon doubling the score line to 14-6.
The Falcons continued to pile on the pressure as a series of line breaks took them back into the opposition 22. And following a ruck 20m out, a brilliant snipe around the base from Ruaridh Dawson gave the 18 year old a free run to the line for the Falcons’ third try of the evening.
With half time approaching, a superb kick and chase from Dan Marshall brought the Falcons close to securing their bonus point. But the homeside had to make do with a lineout five metres out.
Attempting to break a set defensive line, centre Adam Redman attempted a chip over the top, however the Sale fullback was wise to the threat, gathering, marking and drawing the half to a close.
The second half started in similar fashion, the first ten minutes being played in midfield.
The first sign of danger came from a break from the visitors which led to a penalty on the Falcons’ five metre line. But the home side’s defence proved solid, earning a penalty which allowed them to kick their way out of danger.
The resulting lineout was shortly followed by a break from Todd Clever, whose tremendous offload sparked yet another trip into the opposition 22 for the Falcons.
The Jets withstood the pressure, eventually earning a penalty which they kicked downfield. The resulting line out led to a period of strong running from the Jets and a penalty for hands in the ruck on the Falcons’ five metre line. A try came soon after with visiting fly half Tom Morton breaking through to cross the line before adding a conversion to take the score to 19-13 heading towards the last ten minutes.
A penalty for a wheeled scrum gave Morton another three points and set up a nervy climax, with only three points separating the sides.
For the majority of that time, the Falcons defence looked solid and seemingly equal to what Sale had in the bank. But O’Donnell would cause the final upset, breaking down the wing to score in the corner in the 79th minute.
With only 90 seconds to go, the Falcons threw everything at the Jets, but were unable to apply the finishing touches, a knock on prompting the final whistle and setting the scoreline at 19-21 to the visitors.