A second half comeback from Worcester could not deny the Falcons' second string a first win of the season on the last day of the A League campaign. After leading by 24 points at half-time, Newcastle needed a late solo score from Jeremy Manning to secure the win.
Manning joined Richard Mayhew, Darren Fearn, Tom Catterick, Luke Eves and Adriaan Fondse in the hosts' strong starting line-up in Darlington, and Ashley Wells was hooker alongside Dan Frazier completing the front row. Will Chudley captained from scrum-half.
The visiting Cavaliers were first on the scoresheet as Tom Arscott found himself on the far right, the Falcons running out of defenders, but we took the lead after 10 minutes as Richard Boyle powered through and Manning converted.
Boyle scored a pushover try and when the Falcons wasted an advantage on the 22, Manning knocked over an easy penalty.
The Falcons seemed to be in full control, and Eves was next over, breaking through a tackle under the posts. Joe Beckett completed the first half scoring on the far right as the whistle was about to go, and with the try bonus point now safe, the conversions of the latter two tries put us 29-5 up at half-time.
The Falcons went straight on the attack at the start of the second half, but it was the last time they would see the away 22 for quite a while. Worcester's comeback began on the hour with two quick tries from Arscott and Sione Tu'ipulotu and a conversion, and another almost arrived but the visitors were judged to have been in touch on the far left.
Replacement prop James Hall was sin-binned and with all of our replacements used and Dan Frazier not allowed to return for some reason, a replacement who looked remarkably like Carl Hayman went into the front row. From the first scrum after the yellow card, Tom Leach scored to get their own try bonus point.
With five minutes to go and our 24-point lead down to just five points, Manning took control despite taking lengthy treatment just minutes earlier. He dropped a bomb to just inside the Worcester half and shoved over a fumbling defender, before chasing the loose ball downfield and scoring the winning try.
The actin was not over however, and Worcester got their second bonus point with another last-man try by Alex Rovira on 80 minutes, the conversion making the result 34-31.
Leeds' hammering at Franklin's Gardens last night means our reserves avoid the wooden spoon in the northern section of the A League, although after almost reaching the semi-finals last season, just one win from this year's five games is a disappointing return.
Another good report, Leipy. The second half was another demonstration that Bates' dreaded tactic of just booting the ball down the middle of the pitch does not work. It was strange to see a Worcester team with good backs and a weak pack. As usual there was very little fluent back play from the Falcons.
Might be completely off the mark here, but did anyone else notice Manning's pace last night - jeez he was blistering at times, and the game certainly had some pace to it, before the inevitable mass haul off of players at half-time. I can understand this to some extent - we're playing Toulon on Thursday and it will be all hands on deck. Manning might do us very well next season if he is called upon for the 10 shirt - but some issues with missed tackles were my only concern there. (same for Hodgson also btw who didn't have a brilliant game albeit short)
Some of the recovering injured had a good run out, and there was some good game time for Fondse.
My take on last night was we fielded a 'very' strong pack against a much weaker pack and good backs from Worcester. After the swaps, well, we were back to some very junior guys with a few old and bold to help them along - which is basically what they need to bring them on to the higher standard they will have to meet as they progress up the ranks. Not too disheartened by the result - Thursday's match is more important, but not as much as that of Boxing Day. With any luck the new players will have bedded in by then and we will have some post-injury players back (looking forward to catching up on that in the Chronicle this evening) so we should be in a much better position to tackle the post Xmas part of the AP.
Aimless charging around, fumbling in the dark, searching for any signs of the way forward, lots of bluster with very little reward.
Not the game, that was me having picked up the Monkey Travel guide book of how to enter the People's Republic of Darlington, slightly more difficult than arranging a site seeing tour to Pyongyang.
The second half (as that was all I got to see) was fast, furious & frenetic, a little too much kicking from both sides, the scrum depowered enormously with the changes (& the bining - too many handbags not the floor, not enough dancing round them).
Catterick looked good. I thought Joel took a knock during the first tackle he made, either that or he holds his arms in an odd position when off the ball.
Cracking turn out for a game away from the Tyne, especially on such a cold night.
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