Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Powell scrapes win for Falcons

Adam Powell's late try for Newcastle proved the difference.

Newcastle claimed their third Aviva Premiership win of the season as they edged out London Irish in a hard-fought game at Kingston Park.

Both sides had tasted success in the Amlin Challenge Cup in their most recent fixtures, Irish putting 60 points past both I Cavalieri Prato and Lusitano while Newcastle narrowly edged a win at Bucharest Wolves before being beaten by Brive.

However, there was no free-flowing scoring on display on Sunday as a lacklustre, error-strewn game was saved only by the late drama of an Adam Powell try for Newcastle and a nervy fight to the finish for the home side in the 13-11 victory.

Irish openside Ofisa Treviranus scored the only other try in what was a scrappy match littered with handling errors by two sides near to the bottom of the table.

The Falcons made seven changes, most notably at half-back, where Mike Blair and Rory Clegg returned.

Clegg had a less than perfect start, though, as he booted the ball straight out from the kick-off with Irish taking the chance to make their first venture into Newcastle territory from the resulting scrum.

However, despite a couple of half breaks, most notably by full-back Topsy Ojo down the left flank, a knock-on ended the attack and allowed the Falcons to clear comfortably.

Sailosi Tagicakibau worked his way up the left wing for the second time in two minutes as Irish showed some early flair, but it was Newcastle who came the closest to scoring when Clegg just missed his first penalty attempt as the Exiles were penalised at the lineout.

However, the left-hand side of the field provided points for the visitors in the next passage of play when the ball was worked to flanker Treviranus for a try, which fly-half Ian Humphreys failed to convert.

Clegg did not miss with his next chance on goal in the 17th minute from a similar position to the first, though, when Irish's discipline let them down and they were penalised for a high shot.

The game settled down but Irish avoided being reduced to 14 men when number eight Chris Hala'ufia escaped a yellow card for a late hit on Falcons centre Powell.

Newcastle did earn another shot on goal from the incident, which Clegg duly converted to give them the lead for the first time in the game.

Handling errors seemed to be the order of the day, though, with another Irish attack going begging due to poor handling, as the tempo of the game slowed to a crawl.

With silky back play failing to deliver the goods, the visitors turned to a rolling maul, again down their favourite left wing, and they muscled the ball over the line but it was held up.

However, Irish did win a penalty for offside for an infringement in the build-up, which former Leicester and Ulster fly-half Humphreys slotted from in front of the post to claim a 8-6 half-time lead.

The second half began with another display of poor handling from both sides, and after Humphreys missed an early penalty for Irish, Clegg matched him with a miss at the other end.

Both sides then decided to take the aerial option, with a fruitless spell of kicking following which was only ended when the Exiles fly-half found his range after a lineout infringement to extend the visitors' lead.

Newcastle finally clicked into gear with a sustained attack which camped out on the Irish line.

The Falcons' forwards were unable to burrow their way over, though, and instead the ball was shipped out to Powell, who had acres of space and no defence to beat as he raced over for a try, with substitute Phil Godman adding the extras.

Humphreys then missed another penalty chance to edge the visitors back in front and some solid Newcastle defence kept Irish at bay, as they turned down a kickable penalty for a drive to concede a turnover.

The Falcons then held on to take the win as Irish replacement fly-half Shane Geraghty missed a last-gasp penalty.