Ponton delight at French triumph

Friday 18 December 2020

Newcastle Falcons' James Ponton declared himself delighted with his side's 26-17 victory in France as they defeated Castres in European Rugby Challenge Cup action.

The academy head coach was among those stepping into the senior set-up for Friday night's fixture, in which second-half tries from Sam Stuart, Tom Arscott and Josh Basham delivered a hard-fought victory.

Ponton said: "I'm very pleased overall with the way the lads went.

"We had five guys making debuts tonight, they all played well and it's a great experience for them which will stand them in good stead.

"Castres had a good start but the boys stuck in, and it wasn't easy out there. It was a great test, but we came through.

"We stuck to what we'd been practicing all week and what we'd talked about pre-match, just about moving the ball one more pass away.

"We knew that would be the undoing of Castres, and it paid dividends in the end."

Homegrown replacement Chidera Obonna was among those to catch the eye on his debut, having a hand in all three tries.

Ponton said: "Chidera can be a bit of an enigma, and I mean that in the nicest sense.

"He's not always the best trainer, although in fairness he's trained well the last few weeks - but when you put him out there in a game situation he just comes alive.

"Things always seem to happen around him, and it's not a coincidence.

"He had a hand in all three of our tries, and my hope is that he can really kick on from this."

Enjoying the opportunity to step up from his academy duties, Ponton added: "It's a good tournamenent for developing players, and as coaches it's always good when the likes of myself and Mark Laycock get to step up, along with some of our support staff.

"It's having that extra responsibility and being taken out of your comfort zone, and we really get a lot out of it as coaches."

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