Falcons swoop for hard-fought Mennaye victory
Cornish Pirates 3, Newcastle Falcons 25
PREMIERSHIP know-how and total ruthlessness in good attacking positions were the key differences between the two teams at the Mennaye Field on Sunday as Newcastle Falcons won their first ever meeting with the Cornish Pirates.
The scoreline was a little harsh on a Pirates side who remained competitive to the very end of a hugely physical forwards battle played in driving rain and a howling gale.
But it was also a stark reminder of the gap that still exists between this club and being competitive at the next level.
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Newcastle, relegated from the Premiership after a dismal season last year, are determined to bounce back at the first time of asking and with a squad liberally sprinkled with seasoned internationals are unbeaten after four games.
Yet for the first time this season they were denied a winning bonus point by a Pirates side whose work-rate and commitment left head coach Ian Davies with much to be satisfied with.
"We made them work hard for their win here for sure," he said. "We had maybe three or four chances for points in the first half but only one in the second.
"They created chances and scored points from them. That was the difference. They were very clinical and scored tries from a multitude of pick and drives and that is what you have to do to win ugly away from home."
He added: "I thought we were outstanding in the scrum against a Premiership pack and maybe they did get away with a little bit.
"Some of the penalties against us were dubious and maybe we got some dubious ones in our favour, but we shoved them back on several occasions and put in an 80 minute scrummaging performance to prove that we are not a mickey-mouse pack."
He continued: "I think in the second half we didn't realise what the clock was saying and started doing silly things and that allowed the opposition to relieve pressure or create it on us.
"I think you saw that when they had the ball they were very adept at keeping it and just ground us down."
Given the conditions the game was predictably attritional but the Pirates held firm into the elements, trailing 6-3 until the Falcons scored the opening try through hooker Rob Vickers right on half time.
There was a hint of controversy about the score as the Pirates felt that they, not Newcastle, should have been awarded the penalty which started the move.
Davies said: "We thought they collapsed it but stood there waiting for the referee to give a penalty to us.
"They played on and were in front of the kick ahead as well and all the backs stopped. We switched off for ten seconds and they scored points and you can't do that against the good sides. That is the difference."
The game was still there to be won by the Cornish side, but as the Falcons pack rumbled on in the second half they scored again through Samoan international flanker Taiasina Tu'ifua after 54 minutes and then added a third try in second half stoppage time.
This time young wing Tom Catterick found his way into the middle of a driving maul to apply the finish.
Davies, however, offered a realistic appraisal of the afternoon's events.
He said: "We have got to put this into context though, because we had six players out there who were playing National Two rugby last year. They had six internationals.
"We made them work really hard for a victory and I can imagine that at half time John Wells, Dean Richards and their coaching team weren't overly happy with the way they were playing, and a lot of that was down to us."
He added: "The boys can be very proud of their performance but the truth is that we got no points at Bristol last week and we got no points again today."