Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Trap-Door Looming for Sliding Falcons

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Trap-Door Looming for Sliding Falcons

Article excerpt

Byline: MARK SMITH

Newcastle Falcons ................. 29 Leeds Carnegie ...................... 30 NEWCASTLE Falcons face the mother of all battles to retain their Aviva Premiership status, after basement side Leeds sent them sliding to the foot of the table.

Now one point adrift of their Yorkshire rivals, albeit with a game in hand, the relegation trap-door looms large for Alan Tait's side unless they can improve on this showing.

Most frustrating for the head coach is the fact that the Falcons looked by far the more composed of the two teams going into the last 10 seconds of the opening half, leading through Micky Young's try in the right-hand corner and Jeremy Manning's scorcher down the left.

England hooker Steve Thompson had barreled over for Leeds but, at 20-7 up, it seemed as if securing the fourtry bonus point was Newcastle's principal cause for concern.

That was, at least, until a moment of sheer madness from Manning handed Leeds the impetus with the last play of the half.

Having seen his side win a vital turnover underneath their own posts, rather than kick the ball dead for the half-time oranges, the Kiwi pumped it straight into the hands of Leeds' eager counter-attacking unit. Four phases later and the Falcons were underneath their own posts at 20-14, wondering where it had all gone so wrong.

Even at six points down, the psychological boost handed to the Yorkshiremen at such a key point of the game was always going to tell.

Bounding out for the second half, an Adrian Jarvis penalty reduced the deficit to three, before Australian prop Gareth Hardy burrowed over for a fourpoint lead.

A biggest home crowd of the season had turned out in the springtime sun and, even when a brace of Jimmy Gopperth penalties saw the hosts pinch the lead, one always felt there was life left in Leeds.

Neil Back's outfit make no apologies for their limited forward game-plan, but the Leicester legend has chiseled a cohesive unit despite the threadbare funds at his disposal.

Their close-quarter runners set up Jarvis for a 20-metre drop-goal to edge ahead with seven minutes left, and even when Gopperth wiped out their lead with a touchline penalty close to the death, they were not giving up.

That much was evident as Jarvis slotted into the pocket for his second drop-goal in the very last minute, inflicting the dagger blow to send Newcastle right back to base camp in rugby's version of snakes and ladders.

The Falcons' next roll of the dice comes on Friday at home against Northampton but, with Leicester and Bath to follow, the Kingston Park crew must regain their composure at haste.

The annual scrappers have a habit of winning when it matters, but their need has never been greater than now. …

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