Newcastle (A) 29.3.1330/03/2013
Newcastle 34 Jersey 12
Sponsored by HM Plant, "the UK's number one excavator supplier", Newcastle Falcons had to dig deep to overcome a plucky effort by visitors Jersey.
As the match approached added time, the unbeaten league leaders were just 20-12 ahead of the side in 11th place. As Jersey pressed for a bonus point, the Falcons were forced to bring in some of their powerful replacements' bench such as Jimmy Gopperth, the leading points scorer in the RFU Championship, and Scottish international Scott Macleod. Suitably bolstered, and finishing strongly against a tiring Jersey outfit who had given their all, the home side scored two late tries to put the result beyond doubt.
Jersey began the game powerfully, seeking to run the ball where possible and carving out good early field position thanks to a bullocking charge by Elvis Taione. The ball was fed wide to the right and Max Stelling scored in the corner, silencing around 3,900 home fans in the 4,066 crowd but sparking joy from the noisy visiting support.
Falcons had kicked an early penalty to touch in a bid to engineer a scoring platform, but when another opportunity came, Joel Hodgson struck the ball between the posts to make the score 3-5.
A slick piece of handling in the three-quarters and a speedy finish from Tom Catterick brought the Falcons their first try on 27 minutes, but Jersey finished the half on the front foot. A series of scrums near the Newcastle line brought two penalties and a yellow card for tight-head Kieran Brookes, but with a penalty try looking likely, the ball emerged from the next scrum and Jersey had to play it, mounting a drive for the line only to be ruled 'held up' (a decision that was far less contentious than a similar call at the end of the home game against Bristol).
Jersey needed an early score in the second half with Falcons still down to 14, but the rhythm of the game was disrupted by a lengthy injury break as Mark McCrea, who had made several impressive runs in the first half, received treatment for a badly dislocated ankle. The home side were quicker to settle when play resumed and another fine run by Catterick set up a try in the corner for Hodgson.
Falcons may have only conceded three tries in nine previous league matches, but Jersey crossed the line for the second time in the match thanks to powerful runs by replacements Talite Vaioleti and Dai Bishop, the Welshman finding Joe Buckle with the scoring pass, and Mike Le Bourgeois' conversion making it 13-12.
Newcastle's third try on the hour was finished by some explosive pace by new signing Noah Cato, although the officials were among a tiny minority of those watching in failing to pick up a clear knock-on during the build-up.
Falcons were largely in control during the latter stages,
although Jersey's defence held firm until Ollie Stedman scored the
bonus point try and then Gopperth made a classy break to set up
another new signing, Adam Powell, for the hosts' fifth try.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: T Catterick, N Cato, A Crockett, A Powell, R Shortland, J Hodgson (J Gopperth, 71), W Fury (J Pasqualin, 84); G Shiells (J Golding, 54), R Vickers (M Thompson, 54), K Brookes (J Hall, 71), S Tomes (S MacLeod, 54), J Goode, M Wilson (J Hall, 39-49), W Welch (captain), O Stedman. Replacement (not used): A Hogg
Scorers - Tries: T Catterick, J Hodgson, N Cato, O Stedman, A Powell. Conversions: J Hodgson, J Gopperth 2. Penalties: J Hodgson.
JERSEY: M Stelling, J Copsey, M McCrea (D
Bishop, 43), M Foster, E Dawson, M Le Bourgeois, D McCormack
(captain); R Barrington (S McCarthy, 62), E Taione (D Felton, 54),
J Brennan (J Gethings, 78), R Anderson, D Markham, K Lang (T
Vaioleti, 40), J Buckle, F Silcock. Replacements (not used): D
Sanders, J Voss
Scorers - Tries: M Stelling, J Buckle. Conversion: M Le Bourgeois.
Referee: M Mitrea (Italy).