Newcastle Falcons cemented their position at the top of the RFU Championship table with victory over Cornish Pirates at the Mennaye Field.
Played in sodden conditions in Penzance, the Falcons put the Pirates to the sword thanks to tries from Rob Vickers, Taiasina Tu’ifua and Tom Catterick coupled with a penalty and two conversions from Jimmy Gopperth.
But Dean Richards’ charges were made to work for the four points by an enthusiastic Pirates side, which will have ambitions of their own to break into the Championship play-offs come the end of the season.
The Falcons registered the first score of the game courtesy of a fifth minute Jimmy Gopperth penalty after referee Greg MacDonald penalised the Pirates for offside. The Kiwi made no mistake from 25-metres out to give his side a 3-0 lead.
Gopperth’s penalty came after the northeasterners had made a bright start to proceedings with Luke Fielden going close to crossing the whitewash in the corner following some slick passing in the Falcons’ backline.
Not deterred by the early set-back, the Cornishmen responded in positive fashion and went close to a try on 12 minutes when fly-half Aaron Penberthy broke the Falcons’ rearguard only to be thwarted inches from the try line by a scrambling visiting defence.
The hosts had the chance to level the score on 16 minutes with a penalty 30-metres out in front of the posts, but Kieran Hallett skewed his kick wide of the right hand upright.
On 21 minutes Hallett made amends with a simple penalty in front of the posts to level the score at 3-3. However it could have been so much more for the Mennaye Field outfit after back-row Ben Maidment had steamrollered his way through a gap before being tackled just inches from the line. From the resulting breakdown Mr MacDonald adjudged the Falcons to have not released the man and Hallett made it all square.
Four minutes before the break Gopperth restored the Falcons’ three point advantage with a penalty for offside. Solid drives from Rob Vickers and Taiasina Tu’ifua put the hosts on the back foot before Richards’ men were awarded the chance of a shot at goal.
On the cusp of half-time Vickers powered his way over the line for a converted try to give the Falcons some breathing space going into the break.
Tom Catterick scooped up a loose ball following a kick down field, before dancing past his marker to offload to Richard Mayhew, who in turn unleashed the pacey Fielden down the right.
Fielden was tackled 20-metres short from the line before the ball was spun wide left where the forwards then took the initiative with a series of drives towards the line. Vickers got the touchdown with Gopperth adding the extras for a 13-3 interval lead.
The Falcons came out for the second period gunning for the early score that would set them on the way to a fourth consecutive league triumph. And they got their score thanks to a Tu’ifua try after the Falcons utilised their steely pack with patient build-up play. Edging closer and closer to the Pirates line, the big Samoan crashed over. Gopperth made no mistake with the conversion to put his side 20-3 in front.
After a hard slog throughout the second stanza in which the game was dictated by the pack, the Falcons rubber-stamped their victory with a try in the final play of the game from winger Catterick.
Like much of the second-half, Richards’ troops enjoyed a considerable amount of possession but could not convert their possession into tries until the last minute of the game.
Catterick took control of the ball from a rolling maul to dive over the line in the corner to end the game 25-3 to the delight of the Falcons’ travelling contingent.
The Falcons entertain Leeds Carnegie this Friday with the club doing buy one get one free on all tickets (kick-off 8pm). To snap up your tickets please call the Falcons Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060.
Cornish Pirates: 15 Kieran Hallett, 14 Tom Bedford, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Alaifatu Fatialofa (63), 11 Wes Davies (40), 10 Aaron Penberthy (72), 9 Tom Kessell, 1 Ryan Storer, 2 Rob Elloway (72), 3 Alan Paver, 4 David Lyons, 6 Chris Morgan, 7 Phil Burgess (c), 8 Ben Maidment
Replacements: 16 Paul Andrew, 17 Darren Semmens (72), 18 Peter Joyce, 19 Darren Barry, 20 Gavin Cattle (40), 21 Alex Cheeseman (63), 22 L Vinnicombe (72)
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Luke Fielden (69), 13 Alex Crockett (72), 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson (74), 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers (64), 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk (65), 4 Scott MacLeod (49), 5 James Hudson, 6 Ally Hogg (c), 7 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 8 Richard Mayhew
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson (64), 17 James Hall (65), 18 Carlo del Fava (49), 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Jordi Pasqualin (74), 21 Jamie Helleur (72), 22 Alex Tait (69)