Newcastle end season on a high
Newcastle's season ended on a high note with a comprehensive 37-21 victory over Harlequins at Kingston Park.
Anyone who thought there would be nothing at stake obviously did not tell the teams and the 7,014 crowd that roared their side to a five-try win in a match full of big hits and great handling.
Newcastle made the best possible start with a try after only three minutes after some determined chasing of Quins in their own 22 and signalled their intent with a penalty into the corner and a double line-out drive for Richard Mayhew to score.
Nick Evans cut the lead to 5-3 with a seventh minute penalty which looked a little harsh on Mike Blair, who looked to be on his feet and was the tackler at the breakdown.
The Falcons bombed another try-scoring chance when Juan Pablo Socino and Alesana Tuilagi both slipped with the try line beckoning but Quins were offside and Tom Catterick made it 8-3 in the 11th minute.
Catterick added another penalty in the 21st minute when he was collared literally by number eight Netani Talei but Evans made it 11-6 seconds later when Newcastle strayed offside.
It was Quins' turn to bomb a try-scoring chance when Danny Care broke clear and handed on to Talei. All the big number eight had to do was run it on but for some unaccountable reason he ran back into traffic, lost the ball and Newcastle gratefully cleared.
Quins made no such mistake after 28 minutes with relentless pressure opening the way for Evans to glide through and score under the posts and then convert for a 13-11 lead.
Right on half-time Evans made it 16-11 with a controversial penalty after Care had taken a quick tap penalty and appeared to lose control only for referee Tom Foley to give Quins a second bite much to disgust of the Kingston Park crowd.
They had reason to cheer him five minutes into the second half when it looked as if flanker Jack Clifford had scored but after viewing the television replay the try was disallowed for a clear forward pass by Care.
Newcastle bombed another chance with a knock-on right on the Quins line after and then went for the corner again within a kickable penalty and it paid off when Scott Lawson was driven over from the line-out in the 52nd minute and Catterick's conversion put Newcastle back in front at 18-16.
The Falcons lead lasted just four minutes with sustained Quins pressure ending with Marland Yarde's outside run beating the cover for a try in the 56th minute to edge Quins back in front at 21-18.
It was a real seesaw match and Newcastle went back in front when they made a real mess of the Quins ruck in midfield and Blair snapped it up to race in from 45 metres for a try converted by Catterick to make it 25-21 in the 62nd minute.
It was a fitting end to Blair's playing career at the Falcons and he left the field a few moments later to a standing ovation.
Newcastle sealed victory with another cracking try and the try-scoring bonus point with Socino popping a superb pass for Adam Powell to weave through after a little show of the ball to stand up the tacklers and score. Catterick converted for 32-21 in the 72nd minute.
And with seconds left on the clock, Newcastle again made a mess of the Quins ruck, turned the ball over, and Ruki Tipuna threw out a long pass for Andy Saull to race in for their fifth try.