Newcastle Falcons remain on course for an unbeaten end to what has been an extraordinary campaign in the RFU Championship for the North East club following a 25-10 victory over Plymouth Albion at The Brickfields Ground.
With Bristol still to come next week for the final match of the regular season at Kingston Park, the Falcons are in tip-top shape for what lies ahead in the coming weeks.
Sweeping aside their Devon counterparts with fire-power in abundance upfront, coupled with a crafty backline display, Newcastle managed the conditions to record their 21st league victory of the season.
A hardy bunch of Falcons supporters made the arduous journey to the shipbuilding city of Plymouth, and their trip was made worthwhile with a win.
The Falcons had the chance to edge in front within the first minute through a Waisea Luveniyali penalty 30 metres out dead centre of the posts, but the Fijian pulled his effort wide of the upright.
Camping inside the hosts' 22 in the six minutes that followed, the northeasterners broke the dead-lock on seven minutes thanks to Ollie Stedman. From a five metre scrum the former Percy Park back-row scooped the ball up before crashing through three defenders to stretch over to touch down. Luveniyali made no mistake with the extras to make it 7-0.
Midway through the first-half Dean Richards’ men went close to crossing for a well-worked try courtesy of Tom Catterick. Scrum-half Warren Fury scooted from the ruck just inside Albion’s half, before offloading to Jamie Helleur, who in turn fed Ally Hogg on the charge. Hogg switched the ball wide to Catterick in space, but the in-form winger was tackled into touch five metres from the line.
Plymouth fly-half Declan Cusack reduced the deficit to 7-3 with 23 minutes on the clock by virtue of a penalty 30 metres out following an infringement at the ruck.
Newcastle doubled their try tally for the afternoon with just over 10 minutes left of the half with Samoan centre Helleur chasing a lost cause to touch down under the posts.
Luveniyali’s Garyowen was spilled backwards by Albion No.8 Aaron Carpenter, and in trying to scoop the ball up for teammate Paul Bailey, Helleur pounced to intercept. Luveniyali’s conversion extended the Falcons’ lead to 14-3.
Four minutes from the break Albion got themselves well and truly back into the contest with a converted try to go within four points of the Falcons. Wheeling a rolling maul towards the Falcons’ try line, referee Ross Campbell awarded Plymouth a penalty, and with Mr Cambell playing the advantage, replacement full-back Paul Roberts tried a neat dab in behind Newcastle’s defensive line with centre Tobias Howley-Berridge meeting the ball on the slide.
Roberts added the extras to narrow the gap to 14-10.
Three minutes into the second period Stedman was given his marching orders for a 10 minute stint in the bin. During this period with 14 men the Falcons extended their advantage to 17-10 with a simple penalty converted by Luveniyali.
Rob Vickers and James Goode came on for Matt Thompson and Carlo del Fava respectively with 20 minutes remaining.
And the Falcons soon moved further ahead on the scoreboard with a Luveniyali penalty after Plymouth were penalised at the scrum.
As the game reached its climax, Plymouth’s endeavour in attack was clear for all to see, and they went within a whisker away from making it a nervy final 10 minutes.
A series of marauding drives towards the Falcons’ whitewash were thwarted by a dogged visiting rear-guard and Newcastle were able to clear their lines.
Newcastle rounded off the victory with latest acquisition Adam Powell dashing through to score after the impressive Helleur made hard yards through the middle. Luveniyali failed with the touchline conversion and the Falcons left Devon with a 25-10 triumph.
Plymouth Albion: 15 Rhodri McAtee, 14 Paul Bailey, 13 Tobias Howley-Berridge, 12 Keni Fisilau, 11 Thomas Bowen, 10 Declan Cusack, 9 Ruairi Cushion (c), 1 Benjami Rogers, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 4 Brett Beukeboom, 5 Rupeni Nasiga, 6 Sean-Michael Stephen, 7 Samuel Matavesi, 8 Aaron Carpenter
Replacements: 16 Paul Roberts, 17 Lewis Warner, 18 Michael Stupple, 19 James Phillips, 20 Jamie Salter, 21 Alex Brown, 22 Samuel Hocking
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Waisea Luveniyali, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Carlo del Fava, 6 Ollie Stedman, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 James Hall, 18 Richard Mayhew, 19 Richard Mayhew, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick
Referee: Ross Campbell