Fal­cons on verge of semi-fi­nal af­ter win

HOSTS MAKE A SPLASH IN BATH ROUT TO EX­TEND UN­BEATEN CUP STREAK TO FIVE

The Chronicle - - Sport - Simon Ham­mer­s­ley (left) and Sinoti Sinoti (third left) both scored tries for New­cas­tle

NEW­CAS­TLE Fal­cons tamed hor­ren­dous con­di­tions to con­tinue their un­beaten start to the Pre­mier­ship Rugby Cup, out­gun­ning Bath in a clash dom­i­nated by wind and rain.

It was one for the hard­core as New­cas­tle’s loyal and rain-soaked fans roared them all the way in tem­per­a­tures which tested even the most com­mit­ted of fol­low­ers, but they were re­warded for their ded­i­ca­tion with a re­sult which leaves the club firmly in the reck­on­ing for a semi-fi­nal spot ahead of the fi­nal round of pool games.

New­cas­tle be­gan the game play­ing at quite a pace, win­ning back their own kick-off and keep­ing the ball in hand dur­ing an open­ing spell which saw fly-half Joel Hodg­son chal­leng­ing the gain line on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Por­tuguese cen­tre Pe­dro Bet­ten­court was within a whisker of an early try as he broke near the left cor­ner, the Fal­cons also fronting up de­fen­sively as they stole a Bath li­ne­out on their own 22 and marched the vis­i­tors back­wards at the first scrum of the night.

Keen run­ning from Hodg­son and the sup­port of lock An­drew David­son al­most de­liv­ered the night’s open­ing try on 17 min­utes when the Fal­cons fell just short of the line, but they did not have long to wait un­til Michael Young broke the dead­lock on the stroke of 20 min­utes.

It all stemmed from the scrumhalf’s de­ci­sion to run the ball from the base of a mid­field ruck as Bath ex­pected the box kick, Young work­ing the short-side in a pas­sage which saw David­son and Alex Tait ex­chang­ing passes with each other be­fore free­ing the sup­port­ing Young for a jog-in. Hodg­son con­verted into the wind, and took his side’s ad­van­tage to dou­ble fig­ures be­fore the halfhour when he sent over a penalty from the left-hand side af­ter an­other line-out steal got the hosts into promis­ing field po­si­tion.

The tor­ren­tial rain and pun­ish­ing winds made han­dling dif­fi­cult for both sides as more of a tac­ti­cal kick­ing bat­tle en­sued, the mid­dle third soak­ing up much of the pres­sure with nei­ther side want­ing to be caught in pos­ses­sion in their own ter­ri­tory.

Nei­ther side trou­bled the scor­ers in the clos­ing stages of the half as the con­di­tions de­te­ri­o­rated even fur­ther, the Fal­cons com­ing clos­est but find­ing them­selves stripped in the tackle on a suc­ces­sion of oc­ca­sions as their in­ter­val lead stood at 10-0.

They man­aged to add seven to that to­tal just five min­utes af­ter the re­sump­tion, Simon Ham­mer­s­ley cross­ing down the right af­ter cut­ting a su­per line fol­low­ing a pick-and-go se­quence near the Bath try-line.

Hodg­son some­how con­verted from the touch­line de­spite the wind, the game’s flu­ency tak­ing a no­table dip as un­der­stand­able han­dling er­rors drained much of the con­ti­nu­ity.

It took a piece of in­di­vid­ual bril­liance to light up pro­ceed­ings 13 min­utes from time, Sinoti Sinoti the man to pro­duce it as he beat two de­fend­ers to score in the left cor­ner.

That left New­cas­tle need­ing one more try for a bonus point, but it was Bath who found their way over when re­place­ment flanker Josh Bayliss scooped up a loose mid­field ball and hared 50 me­tres to the line, Alex Davies adding the ex­tras.

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