Falcons advance to quarter-finals with two wins from two
Day one of the 2018 Premiership Rugby 7s was a satisfying one for Newcastle Falcons, as their 7s starlets booked passage into the main quarter finals on Saturday with two wins at Franklin’s Gardens.
Game one saw the Falcons take on Saracens in a meeting of the clubs who were the competitions earliest Champions, having gone all the way in 2011 and 2010 respectively and was all action.
Starting the game with some aggressive defensive, an early penalty concession from Newcastle allowed Saracens the opportunity to open the scoring as Tom Griffiths broke through the cover defence.
It was the start of a breathless passage of play as Falcons replied through Zach Kibirige’s pace, before Joel Conlon regained the lead for Sarries.
Mark Laycock’s men took a 10-12 lead into the half-time break through Connor Collett as the summer signing finished off a try made by a superb pass from George Wacokecoke.
Slipping the ball away around his back, it allowed the supporting former North Harbour man a run at the line from which he powered over to finish.
Enjoying an extended period of possession and territory at the start of the second half, Newcastle’s lead was extended with Kibirige’s second try of the night, with another effort showcasing his pace and acceleration.
A turnover whilst trying to find a way through on half way saw Saracens make it a two point game through Ratu Naulago, before the Falcons made good of the result through Adam Radwan.
Taking the ball out on his wing, the winger accelerated his way around and away from the last defender for a converted try that sealed a nine point win.
With five points already acquired, a win against the Tigers would see the Falcons progress as group winners and one of the top four seeds for day two and it was Radwan to the fore as they duly secured that result.
As in game one, it was the Falcons opponents who were first across the whitewash as Mike Adlard made the most of a solid opening minute for the Tigers with a converted try.
There was a similar air to the Falcons opening score of the tie as they went through the phases to build a platform from which to attack, which allowed Ben Stevenson the chance to kick out of a tackle and into a free run to the line.
Tigers went into the break ahead thanks to a converted try from a Jonah Holmes break down the wing, but were denied a crucial third try on the cusp of half time thanks to committed defence from Radwan.
Tearing back in pursuit of a Tigers breakaway, the winger hauled down his man and crucially allowed his team-mates enough time to get back into line and force a relieving penalty.
Having survived that moment, the Falcons tightened up their efforts in the second seven minute burst, keeping their own defensive line intact whilst puncturing the Tigers’ twice.
The scores were levelled early as Radwan turned the pace he had shown in defence to attack for another try where he pulled clear from opposition defenders, before one of the club’s new rising starlets struck the knock out blow.
New senior academy scrum half Cameron Nordii-Kelemeti showed great vision for the try that put his side into the main competition as he spotted a gap and aborted the pass he had cued up to his support runners, to dive in himself.
There was still work to be done as Tigers looked for an equaliser but when solid defence won a penalty, Zach Kibirige’s quick take and a clever kick from Joel Matavesi ensured it was two wins from two for the Falcons.
Following the completion of the pool stages, the Falcons advanced as fourth seeds for finals day and will start their quest for a second Premiership Rugby 7s title at 14:53 against Sale Sharks.