- Newcastle take nine-point advantage into RFU Championship final second leg
- 18 points from the boot of Jimmy Gopperth punish Bedford
Photo: Getty Images
Dean Richards' Newcastle Falcons put one foot into the Aviva Premiership with a dominant 18-9 victory over Bedford Blues at Goldington Road, giving them a sizeable advantage ahead of next week’s RFU Championship Final second leg at Kingston Park.
The Falcons pack outscrummaged the opposition throughout, and despite a late surge of pressure from the home side, Newcastle will feel it is a case of a job well done as six Jimmy Gopperth penalties gave them a commanding nine-point lead.
The game began at a frantic pace, with Newcastle, in particular, full of running and ambition, but smart defensive kicking from fly half Myles Dorrian prevented Falcons from creating any clear-cut chances.
Dorrian and Gopperth traded penalties for offside, before Bedford collapsed a defensive scrum within their 22 and Gopperth gave Falcons the lead for the first time.
Newcastle’s superior possession started to show after 28 minutes, when Bedford’s pack were unable to get to an attacking breakdown, allowing Gopperth to extend the lead to 9-3, as Blues second row Mike Howard failed to release.
Falcons continued to pressure Bedford without the ball, and when Blues wing James Short knocked on just outside his own 22, Newcastle used their dominance in the scrum to win another penalty, which Gopperth converted to give them a 12-3 lead at half-time.
Jimmy Gopperth nearly scored the first try of the game when his attacking kick fortuitously found the hands of Falcons wing Noah Cato.
Cato’s threaded grubber kick found an oncoming Gopperth, but a saving tackle from Blues full back Ben Ransom prevented the score.
It wasn’t long, however, before Gopperth was back on the scoresheet when another Newcastle penalty – this time for failing to roll away – was converted by the Falcons fly half.
Newcastle continued to outnumber Bedford at the breakdown and punished them for their mistakes, with Gopperth adding another penalty, this time for offside in the Blues 22.
Bedford brought the deficit back to 12 points, on 58 minutes, when Dorrian kicked a 40-yard penalty after Newcastle entered the side of a Bedford ruck.
Newcastle’s tactics continued to pay dividends, forcing handling errors from Bedford in threatening positions and thwarting their attempts to reduce the deficit further.
Gopperth's first missed penalty of the night was quickly punished by Bedford, with sub fly half Jake Sharp converting a penalty, after Falcons were pulled up for offside.
Sharp had a late chance to reduce the gap to just six points, but his 35-yard penalty was dragged wide of the left post, leaving Blues with plenty to do ahead in the North West.
15. Ransom, 14. Stephenson, 13. Burke, (22. Dodge 69’), 12. Atkinson, 11. Short, 10. Dorrian (21. Sharp 69’), 9. Baldwin (20. Veenendaal 61’), 1. Reeves, 2. Cochrane (16. Spurling 61’), 3. Boulton (17. Seal 49’), 4. Howard (19. Barrell 68’), 5. Tupai, 6. Gillanders, 7. Fox (c), 8. Fenton-Wells
Replacements not used: 18. Gulliver
15. Alex Tait, 14. Noah Cato, 13. Suka Hufanga, 12. Adam Powell, 11. Ryan Shortland, 10. Jimmy Gopperth, 9. Warren Fury (21. Lawson 51’), 1. Grant Shiells (17. Golding 61’), 2. Rob Vickers, 3. Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4.Carlo del Fava, 5. Scott MacLeod, 6. Mark Wilson (20. Tu’ifua 61’), 7. Will Welch (c), 8. Ally Hogg
Replacements not used: 16. Michael Mayhew, 19. James Hudson, 22. Waisea Luveniyali
Second leg: Newcastle v Bedford at Kingston Park, Wednesday, May 29, KO 7.45pm. Live on Sky Sports HD