Newcastle Falcons shock Saracens
August 5, 2011
Newcastle Falcons' Luke Fielden was the star of the night for the new champions © Getty Images
Newcastle Falcons made amends for their 2010 J.P Morgan Asset Management Sevens Series defeat overcoming Saracens 31-21 in the 2011 final at the Twickenham Stoop.
The Falcons - in a carbon copy of the 2010 final - had Joel Hodgson and Player of the Round Luke Fielden to thank with the duo shining throughout. Saracens - who had hot prospect James Short in their ranks - had never lost a game in the competition prior to the final but were eventually undone despite sterling work from Short and Marcus Watson.
The Falcons started the final the brighter of the two sides with Redford Pennycook putting the 2010 runners-up in the second minute. Alex Tait shocked the reigning champions moments later running in Newcastle's second score of the match. But Saracens star winger Short showed his class running past two Falcons defenders to reduce the deficit. Ben Ransom then drew the game level - following Watson's conversion - with 60 seconds left in the first-half. Neither side could make the break through with the first-half ending 14 apiece.
Saracens' Watson started the second-half in impressive form scoring from the half-way line showing a deft side-step in the process. However the Falcons - not happy with losing their lead - got back within two points of Sarries through a Fielden score. Tait then put the Falcons back in front with three minutes left on the clock completing a brilliant team try. Chris Pilgrim then put the final beyond doubt crashing over in the corner. It proved to be too much for Saracens with the Falcons hanging on to claim an impressive 31-21 victory.
Prior to the final - in the first match of the evening - hosts Harlequins overcame a tame London Wasps side 19-0. Luke Wallace opened the scoring for the hosts and the impressive Ross Chisholm added to his four tries at the Rec in the opening round with a score moments later to put Quins in the driving seat. Quins' Sam Smith stretched the lead in the second-half to put the game beyond Wasps' reach.
In the second showpiece, reigning champions Saracens opened their evening in style with a 38-7 win over Bath. They opened their account through captain Jackson Wray after a spirited start from their opposition Bath. Wray had the opportunity to stretch their lead soon after but the back-row spilled the ball with the try-line beckoning. However, Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier made amends and crashed over the line soon after. Watson stretched Sarries' lead within the next 60 seconds and the game was beyond Bath's reach before the break.
Sarries winger Short soon re-found his round two form with a score at the start of the second-half. Bruzlier crossed the line soon after and following another Sarries score Bath's Richard Lane ran in a consolation score.
In game three Newcastle's Fielden started the scoreboard ticking over against Wasps. Fielden took advantage of Wasps' flimsy defence moments later to run in his second try of the evening. His hat-trick was soon complete running into the corner all within the space of five minutes. Pilgrim added his side's fourth on the half-time whistle to make it 24-0 at the break.
Pilgrim started the second-half in the same way he finished the first taking advantage of good work from young fly-half Hodgson. And Hodgson soon etched his name on the scoreboard with a lightning step which perplexed the Wasps defence. A moment of magic from Joe Burton in an act of defiance put Wasps on the scoreboard. However the score proved to be in vain with the Falcons winning 38-7.
Match four saw reigning champions Saracens facing a physical challenge from Sale with the game scoreless after four first-half minutes. However star performer Short made his mark on the match running a try into the corner with Watson nailing an impressive conversion from the touchline making it 7-0 at the break. Watson soon crossed the try line himself keeping the scoreboard ticking over in the early moments of the second-half.
It was Sale who crossed the try-line next with Hamish Smales running in to put the Northern side back into contention. However Josh Swales sin-binning ended Sale's hopes with Short exploiting the extra man and running in his third try of the evening. That proved to be the final score of the match as Sarries ran out 21-5 winners to secure their place in the final.
In match five hosts Harlequins opened the scoring against the Falcons through Miles Mantella. Chisholm soon added a second as the hosts looked set to pull away. However the Falcons kept themselves in the game thanks to a try from Tait though special mention has to go to Hodgson who kept the ball alive despite attention from the Quins to make it 12-7 at the break to the hosts. Will Chudley then drew the game level with 90 seconds left on the clock. Fielden crossed the line in the dying seconds to give the Falcons a shock 17-12 victory - setting up a repeat of the 2010 showdown.
In the final pool match of the night Bath prevailed 28-12 over Sale with tries from Tom Heathcote (twice), captain Paul Roberts and Alex Brown proving to be enough for the West Country side.
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