Newcastle Falcons endured a wet and miserable evening at the Premiership Rugby Sevens last night, eliminated from the Cup competition at the first hurdle before bombing out in the Plate.
Newport Gwent Dragons were 12-10 victors in a scrappy Cup opener at the Twickenham Stoop, before London Irish snatched a low-quality Plate semi-final 12-5 with the last play of the game.
For a side who had surged to the finals in such convincing fashion last weekend it will have been doubly disappointing.
By their own admission short of out-and-out speed, their physical brand had been enough for them to win all three matches during their qualifier in Darlington, but they were way behind the levels of cohesion needed to conquer the better teams in a tournament which grows in stature every single year.
Made to pay for missing a conversion in front of the posts and offering one midfield offload too many during their Cup loss to the Dragons, it was a game the Falcons could and should have won.
Scrum-half Tom Wilson, a Melrose star in the making, was full of beans and on the spot to support Tom Catterick’s line-break for the opening try, but crucially failed to slot the conversion from in front of the uprights.
It looked to be academic when Ben Morris chased a hack-through to score the second try from Chris Harris’ incursion, Newcastle 10-0 up at half-time.
That lead fizzled out as captain Sam Cross scored on an inside line in the right corner, and when Brian Tuilagi offloaded carelessly in the centre of the field Angus O’Brien pounced to score the winner from the interception.
That left them with a Plate semi-final against London Irish, before which the heavens spectacularly opened. A greasy ball and a soaking pitch eroded any faint hopes of an open contest – the sides locked together on 5-5 until Connor Murphy’s injury-time winner.
Glenn Young’s ill-advised decision to fly in at the side of a ruck on his own line cost the young Scot a sin-binning and a crucial penalty, the Exiles marginally shading what had been a fairly even contest.
Catterick once again bore the bulk of Newcastle’s creative burden, the captain’s lateral running failing to find too many support lines from those around him.
London Irish’s sevens specialist Will Harries, a threat throughout, snuck in for the opening try just before the break from a period of patient possession in the 22, but the Falcons kept themselves in it.
Dan Temm, a menace again at the ruck, scored a sensational try when Ben Morris’ shuddering hit delivered turnover ball in the Falcons’ own half, Young’s support play keeping the attack going before Temm rounded off the move in the corner.
Murphy’s late winner sealed their early exit, but a youthful squad will at least have benefited from the big-game experience as Newcastle build for the future.
Next up for the Falcons is an Under-23s trip to Yorkshire Carnegie on Friday August 22, before the first-team host Rotherham Titans the day after as Kingston Park’s new plastic pitch gets its first official action.
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: T Catterick (captain), J Christie, A Davies, C Harris, D Temm, B Tuilagi, C Willis, T Wilson, G Young, D Marshall, B Morris, O Walker.