Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Late Try Denies Falcons after Gutsy Performance; THE MATCH: Stade Francais 31 Newcastle Falcons 24

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Late Try Denies Falcons after Gutsy Performance; THE MATCH: Stade Francais 31 Newcastle Falcons 24

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Smith at Stade Jean Bouin

BRAVE Newcastle Falcons were undone with a try at the death in Paris last night as Stade Francais became the first side to topple them in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.

Hooker Remi Bonfils applied the decisive blow with a try from a rolling maul six minutes from time, the Falcons at least taking the consolation of a losing bonus point on an evening where they arguably deserved more.

Playing with width, getting over the gain-line and bouncing back from a 10-point deficit to draw level around the hour mark, they still remain the side to beat in Pool C as nearest challengers Newport Gwent Dragons host Bucharest Wolves tonight.

The Falcons had gone into the game with a perfect record of three from three in the competition, up against a Stade side who had stormed up to third in the French Top 14.

Even with both clubs resting a number of their league stars there was still enough quality in both lineups to suggest a proper contest, even if Juan Pablo Socino's charged-down clearance almost got Newcastle off to the worst possible start.

Composed clearance play from Simon Hammersley averted the early danger, the visitors spared again on three minutes when Morne Steyn's long-range penalty attempt fell short.

The South African had clearly signalled he did not want to kick for goal but the presence of the remote-control buggy carrying the kicking tee forced the referee's hand in making the fly-half go for the posts.

The momentum further swung Newcastle's way when Mark Wilson's charge-down of an attempted clearance paved the way for Socino to open the scoring, Rory Clegg converting after the Argentinean had clung on to Wilson's offload.

In the shadow of the Parc des Princes, home of Paris St Germain and scene of the Falcons' 2005 Heineken Cup quarter-final mauling, the Falcons' intention to play with pace was abundantly clear - but their lead evaporated on 13 minutes.

That was when Kiwi rugby league centre Krisnan Inu rounded off a three-on-two in the right corner, Steyn's touchline conversion drawing the sides level.

The end-to-end pattern continued when Clegg's long-range penalty miss saw the hosts take it up the other end and score, Inu's break and pop off the deck ending with left wing Djibril Camara fending the last man to score in the corner.

The size of Newcastle's task increased further on 25 minutes when Stade turned down a kickable penalty in favour of the line-out, a midfield ruck five metres out seeing Steyn's looping pass clawed in by Samoan full-back Paul Williams for their third try.

A sparse crowd reflected French ambivalence to the competition and to Thursday night rugby, not that it stopped Newcastle's small band of travelling followers from making their presence heard. …

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