Newcastle Falcons 50, Cornish Pirates 3
PROMOTION favourites Newcastle Falcons finally showed their fans what they are really capable of with a ruthless display of power, intensity and lethal finishing to leave the Cornish Pirates empty handed at an icy Kingston Park.
Heavy snowfall on Tyneside during Saturday morning had once again put the fixture in doubt but a huge effort by the Kingston Park groundstaff cleared the pitch and the Falcons repaid them with their
Despite conceding eight tries there was still much the Pirates could take from the game, shrugging off another injury and illness epidemic to send a full squad to the north-east with only hours to spare.
They never gave up, played some exciting and fully committed rugby and made the home side work hard for their points.
But the gulf in class between the Cornish side and a former Premiership team still containing six full internationals was key in the end as ruthless finishing kept the scoreboard moving at regular intervals after skipper Will Welch's third minute try.
Locks James Hudson and Scott McLeod then added tries of their own before prop Oliver Tomaszczyk scored their fourth right at the end of the first half. The interval lead of 26-3 was a little harsh on the Pirates who had worked hard with Phil Burgess and Ashley Smith a particular threat in open play.
Tom Kessell and Aaron Penberthy ran the midfield efficiently but they had no answer to the second half power-play from the Falcons. Welch and former Scotland international scrum-half Rory Lawson added early tries with Samoan centre Jamie Helleur and Alex Crockett completing the scoring. However, head coach Ian Davies was far from downbeat after the game and paid tribute to his team. "The scoreline doesn't tell the full story of the match and I feel an immense sense of pride in the boys after their performance," he said.
"Everyone stuck to their task because we could have easily caved in. They (Falcons) brought on some guys who are big units and we stuck at it with some guys playing their first rugby for a long time."
He added: "We deserved a score but we didn't get it but that said the score doesn't flatter Newcastle; they took all their chances.
"Coming here with the bare bones of a team was not good but there were a lot of truths to take from this game.
"We saw the spirit of the Cornish Pirates out there because even though the boys knew we did not have our strongest team, they all stuck at it and I take my hat off to them."
Davies admitted that he was disappointed with assertions from some quarters prior to the game that he had not picked his strongest team. The Pirates now face a huge test this Sunday at Leeds and also take on play-off certainties Bedford Blues at the Mennaye on Easter Sunday but, as he explained, those two games did not come into his thinking at Kingston Park.
"We fielded who was standing. At midday on Friday Harvey Biljon was in the squad because we were struggling so badly for numbers. We only had 20 fit players.
"We really were wondering what we were going to do so to say that we fielded a weakened team is a bit insulting really to those who took the field. Those who were here tonight witnessed a group of guys who gave absolutely everything for the Cornish Pirates cause."
And Davies believes that the performance in defeat at Newcastle could provide a real boost to his battle-scarred troops as we reach the season finale.
"We came here to play some rugby and we did that, so I think we can take a lot of confidence from what we did here," he said.
"All we need to do in the next six games in the league is match the work rate and intensity we showed here for the full 85 minutes plus and we will put weaker sides than Newcastle to bed."