Newcastle Falcons’ second string warmed up for the start of the Aviva A League with a 36-20 victory over Leeds Carnegie Under-23s at The Darlington Arena.
Tries from George McGuigan, Tom Penny, Nick Cairns, Sean Brown, Harrison Collins and Sam White were enough to overcome the Yorkshiremen in this frenetic of affairs at the home of National Division Two North outfit Darlington Mowden Park.
Fresh from his exploits with Ireland at the Junior World Championships in France earlier this summer, McGuigan announced his return to the Falcons fold with a try five minutes into the contest following an infringement at the scrum. The Falcons were awarded a free-kick after Leeds were penalised for early engagement at the scrum, and McGuigan was on hand to finish Simon Hammersley’s run.
The opening score came after the game was sadly marred by a serious injury to Leeds centre Joe Nellany with the match taking a ten minute pause as a result.
Leeds responded almost immediately through Alex Lozowski, who slipped through his marker to score under the posts for a converted try.
While the scoring action then took a short break, the game continued to enthral with both sides making a series of breaks. Newcastle’s endeavour in attack earned a penalty midway through the first-half after Leeds were adjudged to have been over the top at a ruck following a marauding run by Harrison Collins.
As is so often the case in pre-season games, the Falcons spurned the chance of three points, instead drilling the ball deep into Leeds’ 22. From the resulting line-out, the ball was worked into the midfield and carted forward by loose-head James Hallam, before heading back towards the far touchline for McGuigan to feed Tom Penny on the charge for a try in the near corner. Penny’s audacious touchline conversion made it 12-7 to the Falcons.
With the narrowest of advantages, the Falcons lead was short-lived when the visitors slotted home two quick-fire penalties to edge themselves 13-12 in front.
The Falcons ended the half on the attack with two penalties kicked into touch to pile on the pressure in search of a five point score. A desperate Carnegie rear-guard ensured they had the slenderest of leads going into the break.
In the opening stages of the second period the visitors went close to an early score through winger Lewis Jones, who latched on to Will Cargill’s grubber kick only to be thwarted by Falcons scrum-half Andy Davies five metres from the line.
Turning the screw on Carnegie, the Falcons surged into the lead after excellent work at a line-out deep inside Leeds’ territory. Harrison Collins was on the end of a driven line-out to put the hosts in the box seat at 19-13.
As was the case in the first-half Leeds underlined their resilience, scoring five minutes later from a five metre scrum courtesy of Jared Williams. Lozowski added the extras to put his side 20-19 up.
The Falcons introduced some fresh faces to the contest and they were now starting to assert their authority on proceedings with the northeasterners now playing an expansive game. Talented winger Sean Brown excited the 200 strong crowd with a series of bursts into the opposition half.
And after a combination of a solid defence and a patient attack, the Falcons were back in the ascendancy when Cairns used his pace to bulldoze his way over the line.
With just under 10 minutes left on the clock Cairns got outside his man before offloading to Billingham-based Luke Wilson. The 17-year-old’s nimble hands set-up Brown in the far corner to extend the gap to 31-20.
The Falcons were not done there just yet, and they saved their best for last with Ollie Hodgsson the catalyst for a great team try. From a scrum just inside Newcastle’s half, Hodgson played a slick one two with Brown, who in turn drew his man to offload to Davies. Davies demonstrated assurance and composure in abundance, similar to what he showed during the J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s, to find onrushing Tynedale prop White, who powered through like a raging bull from 30-metres out.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Tom Penny, 13 Michael Tait, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Sean Brown, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Andy Davies, 1 James Hallam, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Aston Whitlow, 4 Glen Young, 5 Josh Hedley, 6 Ollie Hodgson, 7 Chris York (c), 8 Harrison Collins
Replacements: 16 David Nelson, 17 Sam White, 18 Trevor Davison, 19 Will Witty, 20 Nick Cairns, 21 Luke Wilson, 22 Tom Small
Leeds Carnegie: 15 Will Cargill, 14 Lewis Jones, 13 Joe Nellany, 12 Luke Peters, 11 Alex Beaumont, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Matt Dudman, 1 Sam Lockwood (c), 2 Luke Cole, 3 Matt Beesley, 4 Jack Ramshaw, 5 Sam Brady, 6 Josh Burridge, 7 Jack Barnard, 8 Jared Williams
Replacements: 16 Josh Graterix, 17 Declan Dunn, 18 Courtney Raymond, 19 Charlie Maddison, 20 Dan Temm, 21 Elliott Quirk, 22 Cameron Ledley, 23 Iain Simm (Match Report by Andrew Robson)