Newcastle Falcons 28 Bucharest Wolves 0: Hollow victory as Euro dream ends

A three-try triumph was not enough to send Newcastle Falcons through as Brive take Pool C title

Ryan Shortland (C) of Newcastle Falcons is tackled by Ionut Dumitru of Bucharest Wolves
Ryan Shortland (C) of Newcastle Falcons is tackled by Ionut Dumitru of Bucharest Wolves

Events 700 miles away meant it was not enough to secure them a quarter-final place, but Newcastle Falcons at least ended their Amlin Challenge Cup group campaign with a victory last night.

Brive’s widely-anticipated win over Calvisano sent the French club through to the knockout stages, but the Falcons’ first victory in five weeks served as a useful work-out as they get their ducks in a row for the impending battle for Premiership survival.

Before Bucharest had even touched the ball they were a try down, Chris Pilgrim’s quick tap setting up the ruck from which play was worked down the blind-side, where Ryan Shortland sped through a hole.

It had the air of a training session, not only from the sparse crowd but the total one-sided nature of the play as the hosts used their visitors like luminous yellow ruck pads in a semi-opposed team run.

A pair of Rory Clegg penalties quickly extended the advantage to double figures for a side making yards at every contact but again kicking too much attacking ball to their opposition.

In total charge at scrum-time and looking dangerous through the hands, Newcastle’s scoring rate slowed down as lengthy kicking exchanges kept the bulk of the play in the middle third.

The Falcons regained their forward momentum in the closing minutes of the first half when a penalty in the left corner saw them opting for the five-metre scrum, two re-sets and a barrage of home pressure - ending with referee Neil Paterson signalling a penalty try.

Clegg converted for an 18-0 half-time lead, but the stand-off’s persistent policy of kicking the ball away brought groans of displeasure from many of those in attendance. Thankfully, Bucharest were not good enough to do anything with it, but with Saracens away as their next game the Falcons cann ill afford such profligate punting.

Livewire hooker George McGuigan was one positive for the home side, even if his knock-on inside the Wolves’ 22 saw a try go begging.

James Fitzpatrick’s injury-enforced exit robbed the midfield of much of its penetration and they had to wait 15 minutes into the second half for their first points as Clegg slotted a penalty from out in front on the 22.

The decision to kick for the posts brought more censure from the home crowd, crying out for a scrum and it was to be Clegg’s last act as Phil Godman and Warren Fury entered the fray.

The double-sin-binning of Paula Kinikinilau and Constantin Pristavita reduced the Romanians to 13, Newcastle taking the opportunity to blood former Durham University prop James Hallam in what transpired to be a scrappy climax.

Tom Catterick broke the tedium by finishing swiftly down the left, his side winning comfortably but failing to go through.

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: N Cato, T Catterick, A Crockett, J Fitzpatrick (A Powell, 15), R Shortland, R Clegg (P Godman, 58), C Pilgrim (W Fury, 58); R Vickers (J Hallam, 64), G McGuigan, O Tomaszczyk, F McKenzie, S MacLeod, M Wilson, A Saull, C York (captain).

Falcons scorers – Tries: R Shortland, penalty try, T Catterick. Conversions: R Clegg, P Godman. Penalties: R Clegg 3.

BUCHAREST WOLVES: T Conache, F Ionita, P Kinikinilau, F Vlaicu, I Dumitru, V Calafeteanu (M Wiringi, 67), F Surugiu (C Caplescu, 63); P Tamba (C Pristavita, 63), E Capatana, V Balaliscescu (A Tarus, 46), A Bucurescu, V Popirlan (A Ion, 49), V Lucaci, A Mitu, S Burcea (captain, D Ianus, 55).

Sin-bin: P Kinikinilau (59), C Pristavita (63)

Referee: N Paterson (Scotland). Attendance: 2,611.

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