Falcons and Sharks battle to a draw
January 7, 2011
Sale's Mathew Tait and Newcastle's Luke Fielden vie for a high ball during the clash at Kingston Park
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Newcastle battled back to claim a share of the spoils in a tense 19-19 draw with Sale at Kingston Park on Friday night.
A debateable try from No.8 Sisa Koyamaibole and an assured display from fly-half Charlie Hodgson, who notched 14 points, looked to have put the Sharks on course for victory but a late try from Falcons lock Tim Swinson and the boot of No.10 Jimmy Gopperth ensured the home side grabbed due reward for their endeavours.
The result sees the struggling Falcons put a little more breathing space between themselves and basement side Leeds Carnegie - who travel to Bath tomorrow - while a two-point haul also helped Sale move away from the wrong end of the table.
Errors littered the opening exchanges as the wet and cold conditions took an early toll, with both sides struggling to keep hold of the ball. But pressure from the hosts brought some reward in the form of a simple penalty, one that the in-form Gopperth landed to open the scores.
Sale responded well with some invention from Hodgson taking his side into the Falcons' 22 where successive penalties allowed the visitors to turn the screw. They initially turned down the chance to kick at the posts and opted to lift the tempo in search of the opening try but in the end settled for three points.
It was then Newcastle's turn to test the Sharks' resolve in defence with centre Kyle Tonetti unlucky to be penalised for a dangerous tackle on opposite number Tane Tu'ipulotu, with the end result being Gopperth's second penalty. The tit-for-tat exchange continued with Hodgson landing his second after Newcastle infringed at the breakdown, with Falcons captain James Hudson subsequently warned about his side's conduct. Hodgson was off-target with his next effort after being caught with a late tackle in midfield but immediately redeemed himself with a sweetly struck drop goal that gave his side the lead for the first time in the game.
Falcons Centre Gcobani Bobo escaped with a warning for what looked like a stamp in the build up to the move but Swinson was not so lucky with referee Tim Wigglesworth issuing him with a yellow card after running out of patience with the home side's shortcomings at the breakdown.
As the weather eased a little the temperature began to rise with a discernable edge to proceedings. The next penalty went the Falcons' way and a bullish Gopperth opted for a long-range shot at goal but the kick from just inside his own half fell short of the posts. Newcastle were soon on the front foot again with scrum-half Micky Young darting through before Hodgson denied Hudson with a sensational try-saving tackle. The hosts re-grouped for the ensuing scrum and were awarded a simple penalty that Gopperth landed to level things up before the break.
Sale pressed early in the second half and fullback Nick Macleod went close to breaking the deadlock only to knock on under pressure in the 22. Sharks flanker Carl Fearns then accidently floored team-mate Tonetti with a clenched fist and ended his game before a crooked lineout throw from the Falcons inside their own 22 handed the visitors an attacking scrum.
Koyamaibole had the alarm bells ringing with a strong drive off the back of the scrum and although he was hauled down the Sharks recycled the ball to hooker Marc Jones who appeared to knock on as he burrowed for the line. But his fumble went unnoticed and Koyamaibole eventually forced his way over for the opening try, converted by Hodgson.
Newcastle were penalised again a couple of minutes later with Hodgson taking his side out to a 10-point lead with the kick. But Sale's failure to release the player after the tackle allowed Gopperth to reduce the arrears with a little over a quarter of an hour remaining. The boot of Hodgson kept Newcastle largely at bay but a penalty against lock Kris Ormsby with five minutes on the clock allowed the Falcons to kick to the corner for the lineout.
Swinson claimed the ball safely and his fellow forwards rumbled the ball forward before replacement Luke Eves was thrown to the ground just short of the line. Another penalty came their way but with the clock working against them there was no interest in the kick and they were rewarded for their gamble when Swinson powered over for a try with a little help from his friends.
Gopperth's conversion levelled the scores once more before Sale piled forward in search of the win, but an adventurous Hodgson dropped goal fell short to ensure a tight contest ended in a draw.
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