Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Birthday Treat for Fans with Kibirige Hat-Trick; but Falcons Can't Have Cake and Eat It

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Birthday Treat for Fans with Kibirige Hat-Trick; but Falcons Can't Have Cake and Eat It

Article excerpt

AHAT-TRICK from birthday boy Zach Kibirige was not enough to split the two teams as Newcastle Falcons and Exeter Chiefs opened the Premiership Rugby Cup with a drawn encounter at Kingston Park Stadium yesterday. Both teams flew out of the blocks, Newcastle almost drawing first blood seven minutes in when Kibirige broke from one 22-yard line to the other.

His side's attempts to score from the resulting ruck saw the ball turned over and Exeter responding with an 80-metre attack of their own in a frantic end-to-end play, Adam Radwan scurrying back to help alleviate the pressure as the visitors knocked on trying to collect a hack ahead.

Clean line-out ball helped hand the Falcons a number of decent attacking opportunities as they spent much of the opening quarter in Chiefs' territory, but that possession did not really extend into the 22 as the Devonians tested the offside laws to their limits.

When the first score finally arrived on 21 minutes, it was Exeter who grabbed it, full-back Max Bodilly scoring in the left corner as the ball was worked wide from a midfield ruck, fly-half Harvey Skinner converting well from near the touchline. The Falcons drew level on 27 minutes with a try created and finished by their wingers, Adam Radwan breaking down the right from halfway to the 22, finding Sam Stuart on his inside who in turn freed Kibirige (pictured) to race home.

Brett Connon converted from in front, and within nine minutes Kibirige had a second try, the pace man latching on to a deft grubber from Stuart from a close-range ruck to ground the unconverted score and put his side in front.

That gave Newcastle a 12-7 interval lead, having been a whisker away from increasing that when Connon thumped the crossbar with a long-range penalty.

The Falcons continued to turn the screw after the break when Tom Arscott drilled a grubber 40 metres into the left corner, and they almost had a third try on 45 minutes when Sam Stuart knocked on under pressure in the act of scoring. …

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