Falcons boosted by Noon return

TOBY Flood is recovering from a minor operation after being hurt during Newcastle’s EDF Energy Cup win against Newport Gwent Dragons.

Newcastle Falcons 29, Newport Gwent 24

TOBY Flood is recovering from a minor operation after being hurt during Newcastle’s EDF Energy Cup win against Newport Gwent Dragons.

Flood was taken off during the game and began to feel discomfort in the evening. After going to accident and emergency, it emerged the England fly-half had a small tear in his scrotum. While he will not feature when the Falcons go to Spain for their opening European Challenge Cup tie against El Salvador on Saturday, coach John Fletcher does not expect the injury causing any further problems.

The Falcons are likely to be without Jonny Wilkinson for the tie but are expected to be boosted by the return of Jamie Noon who is set to make his comeback six weeks after damaging knee ligaments in the World Cup.

Newcastle’s medical staff reckon Wilkinson needs another week to recover from the ankle injury he suffered in England’s World Cup defence. He will go to Spain but his chances of playing are slim.

Wilkinson and Noon missed the Falcons 29-24 win over Newport at Kingston Park on Saturday, but Noon was close to playing. Flanker Ben Woods also made his comeback after recovering from a broken hand.

He can expect to be in the squad for Spain with skipper Phil Dowson, who has been out with a shoulder injury.

Fletcher said: "It’s probably a week to soon for Jonny. However, we expect Jamie Noon, Phil Dowson and Ben Woods to be in the mix.

"Jamie was close for the Newport game, but we decided to hold him back a week. He’s flying in training. To have him back is a massive boost."

Newcastle have got themselves in a good position in their EDF Cup pool and a win at Wasps in their final match would take them into the semi-finals. But attention is on the challenge at Estadio Pepe Rojo.

Fletcher said: "We’re not underestimating the Spanish and we will be preparing for this game as we would do for any other.

"We have a short turnaround after the match as we host Brive at Kingston Park the following Thursday, so there may be an element of rotation. The focus will be the same as we aim to begin our assault on the European Challenge Cup."

The bonus-point victory over Newport looked simple with the Falcons leading 17-0. But Newcastle were scrambling at the end although leading 29-24.

Fletcher said: "The main goal was to win and we achieved that with a bonus point. That’s not to say we were satisfied with the performance as a whole, especially the second half, but to get four tries and the victory was very pleasing.

"We should have pushed a little harder, especially when Newport were down to 13 men with the two sin-binnings, but we got a little disorganised trying to force the game and gifted them an interception try. That changed the shape of the game because they went in at half time with their tails up. We became more and more nervous as the match wore on.

"We made a lot of good choices, but our execution was poor. Three or four things we tried to do were the right things to do, but we didn’t carry them through effectively. As a team we have to learn to kill off games like this."

MARK Mayerhofler made an emotional farewell to the Falcons fans on Saturday.

The Kiwi centre got a standing ovation on leading the teams out and at half time club chairman Dave Thompson presented him with a farewell gift.

The former All Black made 92 appearances for the club in his five-year stay

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