By Richard Grainger
Falcons claw their way back towards promotion
LEEDS FAILED to end Newcastle’s bid to bounce back into the Aviva Premiership at Kingston Park on Sunday.
After 160 minutes of rugby The Falcons, although out-scored two tries to one by the resurgent Yorkshiremen, progressed to the final by virtue of a 34-30 aggregate scoreline.
“I thought we gave our all over the two games,” winger David Doherty told the Leeds website, “and we have come up agonisingly short but that will only make us stronger as a group for the future.”
For Carnegie to capitalise on their Bank Holiday success, they needed to score first and build on the slender five-point lead they took to the north-east.
But despite a bright start, unforced errors and a high penalty count allowed Jimmy Gopperth’s boot to clear the deficit and put the Falcons back on track for the final with four well-struck first-half penalties.
But despite a wealth of possession in the second half, a heroic Leeds defence denied the Falcons a try, and a fifth Gopperth penalty was all they had to show for their dominance.
With ten minutes to go, Ford popped over a drop goal from 35 metres to reduce the Headingley outfit’s arrears to four points and set up a thrilling finale.
Leeds had their chances, but handling errors led to crucial turnovers and Newcastle held out to win 15-6.
NO SEMI-FINAL BLUES FOR BEDFORD
Despite seeing a 0-20 first half lead eroded by a spirited second period Nottingham comeback, Bedford did enough to earn themselves their first Championship final berth at Meadow Lane on Friday night, with an 11 point aggregate win.
James Short, on loan from Saracens, picked off Joe Munro’s pass to scarper home from 60 metres. Myles Dorrian converted and added two penalties before Blues’ Nick Fenton-Wells fed scrum-half Luke Baldwin to nip over from a scrum.
Dorrian’s conversion gave the visitors a 29-point aggregate lead at the turnaround, but the Green and Whites’ head coach Martin Haag will want to file away his interval team talk for future use, as Nottingham looked a different side in the second period.
The Meadow Lane outfit responded with alacrity hitting Bedford with three tries in 24 minutes to give their fans the faintest glimmer of hope.
Winger Alex Lewington finished off Nottingham’s first attack of the half in the 43rd minute, then six minutes later, second-row Dan Montagu drove over before Dorrian kicked a penalty to give the visitors their only points of the half.
When Rhys Crane went over in the left corner with 13 minutes to play and James Arlidge banged over his third conversion, there was just the tinkle of alarm bells for the Bedford faithful.
However the Blues defended stoically and hung on to win 21-23 and 49-38 overall.
Newcastle play the first of three finals on Friday when they take on Leinster A in the British & Irish Cup decider at Kingston Park (kick-off 7.30pm).
The Falcons have elected to play the first leg of the Championship final at Goldington Road on Thursday May 23rd (kick-off 7.45pm) with the return game at Kingston Park on Wednesday May 29th (7.45pm).
WHEN DOES A MAJOR SPONSORSHIP DEAL LEAVE YOU WORSE OFF?
First, the good news: Brewers Greene King have agreed to become the first major sponsors of the Championship with a deal believed to be worth £1.2m over three years.
And now for the bad news: this will be of no benefit to the Championship clubs, as it will simply cover the RFU’s annual payment of £400,000.
However, the season will kick-off with three Greene King IPA ‘magic weekends’ — double headers on top of the regular 22-match season, which, it is hoped will raise interest and generate revenue for the cash-strapped Championship clubs.