Pirates fail to find any momentum as Falcons soar to win
Newcastle Falcons maintained their unbeaten start to the season in their quest for promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt as they scored three unanswered tries during a 25-3 victory over the Cornish Pirates in atrocious conditions in Cornwall.
The forecast rain and wind from the south-east set in well before kick-off leaving the lush Mennaye Field playing surface slippery underfoot.
Predictably, the contest quickly became dominated by the forwards but, despite ferocious pressure from the kick-off, Newcastle failed to take the contest by the scruff of the neck until well into the second half.
The Pirates withstood the early driving play from Dean Richards' side and the destructive running of giant Samoan international Taiasina Tu'ifua, conceding only a fourth-minute penalty to the lethal boot of Jimmy Gopperth.
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Yet with the elements at their back, Newcastle struggled to assert themselves and Kieran Hallett's narrow penalty miss on 16 minutes was a sign of growing confidence in the home side.
Ben Maidment then had the Cornish crowd on their feet as he stormed through the midfield before being halted just short of the Falcons line by Ally Hogg.
Moments later Hallett hit the target with his second place kick and the contest was all square.
A good tactical kicking game implemented by Aaron Penberthy and Tom Kessell resisted the Falcons offensive threat until the 35th minute when Gopperth made it 6-3 after an offence at the breakdown.
Then with time up in the first half the Falcons claimed their first try through Rob Vickers as he rounded off a period of strong phase-play from a quick breakout going over from two metres.
The try proved to be as crucial in its timing as it was controversial in its award with the Falcons launching the attack from a scrum on their own ten metre line which loosehead prop Jonny Golding had clearly collapsed.
The Falcons' number one had a torrid afternoon at the set-piece against the much shorter Alan Paver but the officiating of the scrum by referee Greg MacDonald, in his first season at Championship level, left many in the home camp clearly bemused.
Gavin Cattle took over at scrum-half after the interval with Wes Davies picking up a back problem and Kessell moved to the wing, but the Falcons were a different proposition after the break and took the game in a stranglehold.
Despite continuing to disrupt the Newcastle scrum, they could not get the momentum in their overall game they needed to get the scoreboard ticking along, and in the worsening weather the Falcons stuck to route one rugby.
The ever-dangerous Tu'ifua was next to score as he was driven over after a sustained period of pick and drive rugby which marched the Pirates back onto their own line. Gopperth's conversion made the win safe at 20-3.
Gopperth himself could have claimed the next try only to knock-on when well placed from an attacking five-metre scrum, but with the clock ticking the Pirates began to chase the game running from deep and errors crept in.
Head coach Ian Davies gave Championship debuts to new-signing Peter Joyce and former team-mate at Redruth Lewis Vinnicombe, but none of the fresh legs were able to affect the contest.
When they did get rare attacking platforms errors and the whistle of Mr MacDonald quickly returned the ball to the Falcons and it was they who completed the scoring on a deserved victory five minutes into stoppage time at the end of the game.
From a penalty, line-out and driving maul in the scoreboard corner of the ground the Newcastle pack rumbled relentlessly through a tiring home rearguard with wing Tom Catterick cropping up to claim the vital touchdown.
He missed the conversion from out wide on the left but the Pirates now face a quick turnaround before heading to South Yorkshire on Friday to face Doncaster Knights on the back of two successive defeats.