Newcastle and Worcester play out frustrating draw
December 27, 2008
Newcastle flanker Phil Dowson breaks clear to score at Kingston Park
© Getty Images
Worcester came from behind to grab a draw away to Newcastle at Kingston Park after the Falcons had enjoyed the lion's share of possession but failed to make it count. The hosts had opened up a 13-3 lead early in the first half on the back a converted Phil Dowson try and a pair of Rory Clegg penalties.
But the Warriors slowly fought their way back into the game and eventually grabbed a share of the spoils when Pat Sanderson crossed, and Eoghan Hickey converted, 11 minutes from full-time. The Falcons made a bright start despite conceding the first score of the game, a fourth-minute penalty from Hickey.
Clegg, however, levelled matter just three minutes later after a bullocking run by Dowson following on Micky Young's quick free-kick which led to a penalty. And the home side burst to life with a surging run from Jamie Noon, backed up by several thrusts from Tom May, Tim Visser, John Rudd and Micky Young who was narrowly short of the line with a darting run.
The Falcons did cross soon after with Clegg's instinctive crossfield kick, which would have done Jonny Wilkinson justice, allowing Dowson to pluck it out of the air to score in the corner. Clegg's 13th minute conversion followed by a penalty five minutes late put Newcastle 13-3 up and in control.
But Hickey trimmed the lead with a 27th-minute penalty and Chris Latham rescued Worcester when he powerfully shrugged off three tackles in his own 22 and rifled the ball downfield where Newcastle were penalised for taking the scrum down and Hickey pushed his shot at goal wide.
He didn't miss, however, when Adam Balding was sin-binned after being trapped at the bottom of a collapsed maul - it was a harsh yellow - and that made it 13-9 in the 33rd minute. Despite being down to 14 men, Newcastle ended the half still on top with Dowson breaking through only to be tap-tackled by Greg Rawlinson to save a certain try and Clegg came up just short with a long-range penalty.
Clegg was on target from closer range 11 minutes into the second half after Balding had nearly broken through to catch Worcester offside. It was the signal for a major offensive from the Warriors as they worked the ball through multiple phases only to be knocked back each time by some impressive Falcons tackling.
The hosts then threatened to break the game open when Clegg raced away and it seemed Newcastle must score, but May and Matt Thompson were both held close to the line. Newcastle then pressured Worcester in conceding a penalty at the scrum but Clegg was wide with the kick at goal in the 64th minute and the young fly-half made a big mistake when he tried to throw the ball into himself close to his own line and lost control of it.
Worcester swept it wide to the left and from a scrum five metres out, Sanderson scrambled over for the try with 11 minutes left and Hickey's conversion levelled the score at 16-16. Newcastle desperately sought a way through and kept the ball alive for a lung-bursting five minutes of stoppage time, but Latham stepped in, stole it at a ruck and hoofed it into touch to seal the draw.
Worcester boss Mike Ruddock was pleased with his side's fortitude as they fought back to snatch a draw. "We were very disciplined and I was very pleased with the character we showed at the end when Newcastle were coming at us," Ruddock said. "We needed to get something out of the game and to come back from 13-3 down to get a draw is a real plaudit to the players.
"We stayed calm and composed and showed great character. Hopefully, we can keep playing like that and move up the league. I thought both sides contributed to what was a full-blooded Premiership encounter."
Newcastle's Director of Rugby Steve Bates was pleased with his side's performance despite the result and was also quick to defend young fly-half Rory Clegg, whose mistake it was that cost the Falcons all four points.
"It was a tight game and very exciting game," he said. "It might not have been the most skilful of games and in the end we were a little disappointed not to have won. I was one of our best performances of the season but I suppose we didn't finish things off as well as we can.
"You can't blame Rory," said Bates. "You have to take the rough with the smooth with these young guys who are talented but inexperienced. If he'd caught it and banged it 40 metres into touch we'd all be standing here saying he was brilliant."
Newcastle: May; Visser, Noon, Tu'ipulotu, Rudd; Clegg, Young; Golding, Thompson, D Wilson, Swinson, Sorenson, Balding, B Wilson, Dowson.
Replacements: Grindal for Young (59), Hayman for D Wilson (33), Parling for Balding (59). Not Used: Vickers, Brown, Miller, Jones.
Sin Bin: Balding (33).
Worcester: Latham; Gear, Rasmussen, Tuitupou, Pennell; E Hickey, R Powell; Mullan, Lutui, Horsman, Rawlinson, Gillies, Talei, Sanderson, Horstmann.
Replacements: M Powell for R Powell (61), Bowley for Gillies (56), Tuamoepeau for Horstmann (56). Not Used: Fortey, Cox, Carlisle, Luscombe.
Ref: Sean Davey (RFU).
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action