Newcastle Falcons 13
DAVID BARNES @ Kingston Park
AS Richard Cockerill pointed out immediately after this victory over the team which finished fourth in the English Premiership last season: “It doesn’t count for much – there’s no points on offer – but it’s a positive going into next week.”
Edinburgh will now travel to Swansea on Friday night with a winning wind at their back. With Blair Kinghorn, Grant Gilchrist, Simon Berghan, Simon Hickey and hopefully Magnus Bradbury all due to come back into the fray, they will believe there is absolutely no reason why they can’t get this season’s Guinness PRO14 campaign off to a winning start against the Ospreys.
This was by no means a complete performance from Cockerill’s men, but there was certainly a lot more good than bad, especially in terms of set-piece, physicality, togetherness in defence, and control in attack (on a night when things didn’t always click with the ball in hand).
“I think it was a good performance from us,” insisted Cockerill. “We played some decent stuff, scored a couple of good tries and while I’m a bit frustrated with conceding at the death, it will be a good lesson for us to look back on when we come back to review the game on Sunday morning.
“We were really solid and combative last week [when Edinburgh lost to Bath] and today we were physically very good and ball in hand we created some good opportunities – and it was good to get some game time into lots of guys, especially the young guys out there at the end.
“It is a hard place to come – they are a good side, who had a good result last week against Leinster – so we’re happy with where we’re at. We’ve just got to keep building our game and working hard
“I thought Luke Hamilton was really good, Fraser McKenzie making his comeback did a good job, it was nice to have an all international front-row to come off the bench and do what they did, and Matt Scott showed up well again. Across the board, as a team, we looked very united.
“We made some errors, we put ourselves under pressure, we’ve got to do a lot of things better – but it’s a really good building block. The mentality is fantastic in terms of team-spirit, effort and wanting to keep them away from our goal line.
Jaco van der Walt and Toby Flood kicked two penalties each in a fairly scrappy opening quarter, in which the big moment of entertainment came from Falcons youngster Adam Radwan, who lit up the night with a quick tap-penalty and scintillating break past at least four bamboozled defenders before being scragged just a few yards from the Edinburgh line.
The winger deserved a score for that but instead he watched his team fall seven points behind when Matt Scott crashed over from close range for his first try since returning north following two years playing in Gloucester, after Duhan van der Merwe had got the visitors onto the front foot with a powerful break up the left touchline.
With a blanket of rain enveloping Kingston Park, Cockerill’s men spent the first ten minutes of the second half on the back foot, and it was only after a new front row of WP Nel, Ross Ford and Allan Dell, plus Jamie Ritchie in the back-row, were sent into the fray that they managed to get a brief foothold.
Jaco van der Walt slotted another penalty but then the first miscued line-out of the night blew a great attacking opportunity for Edinburgh and Newcastle spent the next 20 minutes vigorously testing their opponents’ defensive resolve.
Cockerill was by now throwing replacements on at almost every break in play, which couldn’t have helped continuity, but the defensive resilience of the home team ensured that Newcastle couldn’t turn pressure into points.
Then two excellent midfield bursts from midfield – the first from bustling James Johnstone and the second from galloping Callum Hunter-Hill – prised Newcastle wide open. Van der Merwe looked certain to squeeze over in the corner until Radwan edged him into touch just in time, but Edinburgh kept the pressure on and Jamie Farndale – called into the starting fifteen after Dougie Fife went down with tonsillitis – finally finished the contest off.
Radwan scored an excellent 40-metre consolation try for Newcastle in the last play of the match, which was little more than the winger deserved.
The two sides will face each other again in back-to-back matches at the start of December, having been drawn against each other in the Heineken Champions Cup. The slate will be wiped clean for that double-header, but on this evidence, Edinburgh should have nothing to fear.
That, however, is a long way off – and the delights of a Friday night Swansea will be the only thing on Edinburgh’s radar for the next six days.
Newcastle Falcons: S Hammersley; V Goneva, C Harris, J Williams, A Radwan; T Flood, S Stuart; S Mavinga, G Mcguigan, J Payne, W Witty, S Robinson, M Wilson, W Welch, C Chick. Replacements: S Socino, A Brocklebank, P Mullen, T Cavubati, G Young, S Uzokwe, T Marshall, S Takulua,J Hodgson, S Sinoti, J Matavesi, A Tait.
Edinburgh: T Brown; J Farndale, M Bennett, M Scott, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, M McCallum, F McKenzie, B Toolis, L Hamilton, H Watson, V Mata. Replacements: A Dell, W Nel, R Ford, C Hunter-Hill,C Atkinson,J Ritchie, L Crosbie,S Nayalo,S Kennedy, J Baggott,J Socino, J Johnstone,G Taylor.
Referee: JP Doyle
Newcastle: Try: Radwan; Pen: Flood 3.
Edinburgh: Try: Scott, Farndale; Con: van der Walt 2; Pen: van der Walt 3.
Scoring sequence (Newcastle first): 0-3; 3-3; 6-3; 6-6; 6-11; 6-13 (h-t) 6-16; 6-21; 6-23; 11-23; 13-23