IT used to be said the only certainties in life were death and taxes. You can now add Newcastle Falcons winning to that list.
Unbeaten in competitive action for the past ten months, 23 opponents have now tried and failed to halt the Championship leaders’ seemingly inexorable rise back to the big time.
Moseley were the latest to come a cropper, run ragged at Kingston Park in 80 minutes which only served to reaffirm the Falcons’ status as virtual certainties for Premiership rugby come September.
The trip-wire of the promotion play-offs is the only thing realistically standing in their way with a 20-point lead at the top of the table, and they can guarantee their semi-final place as early as a fortnight away when they travel to Rotherham. As for last night’s formalities Newcastle once again lived up to their billing, the bookies offering just £1 in return for every £100 wagered.
Such predictability can severely dent the entertainment value for those preferring a genuine sporting contest, but in a first home league game for eight weeks the sheer novelty of seeing them at Kingston Park seemed enough for the natives.
Right from the start they had plenty to cheer, Rory Lawson’s beautifully-weighted box kick delivering man and ball at the same time, prompting the turnover from which their first try emanated.
Foxing Moseley’s blitz defence with clever decoy running, Jimmy Gopperth sucked in the numbers before floating an inch-perfect cross-kick to Ryan Shortland on the left, the Kiwi feeding inside for Tom Catterick (pictured left) to score.
It was precisely the sort of width and expansion they have found so difficult to achieve in a month of mud-baths and rain-storms, and having beaten the same opposition by 40 points in October one sensed early on they were set on a repeat. Visiting fly-half Glynn Hughes chipped three points off the score with a well-directed penalty from out on the left, but hooker Rob Vickers took the Falcons to double figures as his latch men bundled him over from a ruck to the right of the posts.
Gopperth converted, and despite persistent off-side from Moseley scrum-half Sam Brown going unpunished the Falcons just got on with their game.
The Kiwi fly-half failed to nudge over a 30-metre penalty and keep the shiny new scoreboard moving as the rate dropped to below a point every two minutes, Moseley reduced to some fairly ineffectual one-out running patterns on the rare occasions they had ball in hand to work with.
The Falcons’ scrum wasn’t giving an inch as Jonny Golding and Oliver Tomaszczyk turned the screw, and Michael Tait in his first league start of the season seemed lively enough even if the level of opposition made it hard to get too excited. Backline zip emanated from Catterick and Shortland for the most part, while Taiasina Tu’ifua’s trademark aggression had him over the gain-line on a succession of occasions.
Finding the balance between kicking and handling when in possession proved tricky at times, and 12-3 was all they had to show for a one-sided opening half as the cogs began to turn slightly out of synch.
Tane Tu’ipulotu, precisely the sort of midfield totem required to add the required direction, did take to the field, albeit only to draw the half-time raffle as he continues to battle injury.
Without him the Falcons went in search of further points, starting the second half in the same way as the first with a Catterick try as the full-back dummied and went through a gap down the right a minute from the re-start. Finally playing with pattern and purpose they chased for the bonus point, Shortland bursting through a hole and Catterick just failing to cling on to the pass for a hat-trick try.
They didn’t have to wait long, though, the very next play seeing Catterick again in behind the defence and feeding Gopperth for a try in the left corner – flamboyantly grounded with an Ashton-esque splash.
Only Gopperth’s wayward boot was keeping Moseley remotely in sight as a third conversion missed its target, albeit it from the touchline, while the introduction of Ollie Stedman added menace and nastiness to the back-row blend. Only two minutes had elapsed when the ex-Tynedale No 8 collected a pass 10 metres out down the left and burst over for a try, his second in as many appearances after scoring on his debut at Cross Keys.
Gopperth regained his kicking range with a neatly slotted conversion into the South Stand, and with the result done and dusted it was simple a case of how many more the league leaders could plunder.
Moseley’s Addison Lockley must have thought he was in Disneyland after being sparked out in midfield.
Remarkably he stayed on the pitch, although the same could not be said of home lock Scott MacLeod following his 73rd-minute sin-binning for an indiscretion at a maul.
It mattered not in the end as Ally Hogg scored a pushover try with the final play. Just another game. Just another win.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: T Catterick, A Higgins (J Hudson, 75), M Tait, J Helleur, R Shortland, J Gopperth, R Lawson; J Golding, R Vickers (M Thompson, 55), O Tomaszczyk (J Hall, 57), J Goode, S MacLeod, T Tu’ifua (O Stedman, 57), W Welch (captain), A Hogg.
Falcons scorers - Tries: T Catterick 2, R Vickers, J Gopperth, O Stedman, A Hogg. Conversions: J Gopperth 3.
Sin-bin: S MacLeod (73 mins)
MOSELEY: B Robinson, S Hunt, G King, A Carter, S Armstrong (B Hunt, 78), G Hughes, S Brown; T Warren (D Herriott, 60), A Caves (S Wilkes, 61), B Evans, A Lockley, M Powell (N Mason, 53), S Dickinson (B Lawrence, 53), O Robinson (B Pons, 61), B Pienaar.
Moseley scorers – Penalties: G Hughes.
Referee: L ApGeraint-Roberts. Attendance: 3,030