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While there was plenty of drama and intensity from the Championship’s top two sides to date – the only disappointment from a neutral’s perspective – would have been the frustrating lack of quality – on an afternoon that begged for it.
That said – and with both sides fully committed – there was no lack of excitement from a contest that had to wait until six minutes from time for the decisive score.
No surprise then that it came from the boot of former England fly half, Toby Flood. Plenty of the said same, that it had taken this long and why.
An even first half – which delivered all but that solitary three points – had seen the hosts begin with plenty of intent and enjoy a lead for most of the opening half hour or so. They looked assured and calm when under pressure – and edged ahead via three (from four) penalty attempts from Alvarez – this week at outside centre. The third as a result from an infringement from the visitors – that saw a good move from Walker, Stevens & Channon end with Cornish Fijian, Matevesi, invited to spend ’10’ in the Biffa Bin by Mr Turvey.
A penalty from Flood and a try in the Clubhouse Corner by Stevenson kept the score line tight prior to this – and briefly offer the Pirates a sniff of glory. By the time Josh returned however – the hosts hadn’t added to their advantage any further. But there was hope and with Cant amongst other showing well growing belief.
Step up Mr Flood with dying embers of the half glowing to provide one moment of quality then – his grubber perfectly judged for Arscott to benefit in the Scoreboard Corner. The extras weren’t added – but it would be the Falcons breathing the more easily at the end of a difficult forty minutes for them.
It seemed as the teams switched ends to be a potential springboard for the Geordies to maybe kick on.
They had to survive an opening couple of minutes from the Cornishmen first – as Cant once again threatened. But when the first of the Pirates’ yellow cards fell to Lemalu shortly afterwards – Newcastle’s intensity increased – and camp was set up mainly in the Pirates 22.
Amazingly the home defence survived wave after wave of attacks in a defensive display that must have impressed. It certainly had the bumper home crowd aroused and no doubt lead to Flood opting for goal instead in the 54th minute – to surely give the scorekeepers something to do at last.
It didn’t. Lemalu returned with no points conceded and levels of belief increased – and instantly waned – as then Alvarez trotted over to the warm seat Fa’atiga had just vacated. Toby tipped the emotion meter once more with an inexplicable miss from the 25m as the Argentine settled down on the side line.
Rollercoaster stuff then – more so when Alvarez returned with the score still locked at 9-15. Surely not? A grandstand finish where none should have beckoned – loomed. Until Flood finally dissected the uprights to surely finish off any Pirate resistance…
Not quite as it transpired. The final five signalled a flurry of action at the Newcastle end which almost produced a deserved bonus point score. Wedlake came close on the left – and a sequence of penalties in Pirate favour threatened the line – until Man of the Match and skipper, Beukeboom finally offered Alvarez another shot at goal.
It wasn’t to be.