Match Report: Newcastle Falcons 14 – 20 Exeter Chiefs
Exeter Chiefs secured their first away win in the Gallagher Premiership this evening in Newcastle as Rob Baxter’s men ended a 13-month wait with a result on the road to Falcons at Kingston Park.
On a chilly Northern day, it was the Exeter men, in their change white strip, who got the day’s scoring off to a start. Henry Slade took a pass just shy of his own 10 metre line, passing on to his captain, Dafydd Jenkins. The Welshman had speedster Immanual Feyi-Waboso outside of him looking for a sniff of an option.
The winger took the pass and ran well at Newcastle’s Iwan Stephens. With power coming from his speed, the Chiefs man bumped off his attempted tackler. He had Tommy Wyatt on his shoulder for support on the wing but the Chief didn’t need him, running ball in right at the corner.
Falcons got into their starting stride in the fifth minute. Working quickly from the halfway line, Jamie Blamire received the pass on the line of the Chiefs 22. Executing as much of a goose step as any hooker truly can, he dodged the onrushing tackler and despite an onrushing Feyi-Waboso hunting him down, he reached the line for the score before the Chiefs winger. Fly half Louis Johnson added the conversion to put Falcons in the lead.
The Falcons scampered back into Chiefs territory for a second score just minutes later. John Hawkins drove to keep his arms free of his tackler to offload to Stephens on the line of his own 22. Stephens then tore downfield for a break. Having recycled ball well, the winger came back into possession and chipped a ball over the defence for Matias Moroni to run onto for the try which Johnson again converted.
Exeter’s defence was truly tested in the middle quarter of the first half as Falcons looked to make use of any glimpse of an opportunity. The experience front row of Scott Sio, Jack Yeandle and Ehren Painter remained calm despite the frustration of scrum calls going the way of their direct opposition.
The travelling side also had injury concerns to deal with twice over as, having come on in the 12 th minute for Feyi-Waboso, Will Haydon-Wood limped from the field to be replaced by Tom Hendrickson in just the 20th minute.
Despite the potential damaging effect of those injuries and penalty calls not going their way, the Chiefs men kept the head and remained in the fight throughout the remainder of the first half. Finding themselves deep into Newcastle territory, their set piece didn’t function to its optimum, but they ensured their second attempt at the lineout from a Newcastle clear was pitch perfect.
When a breakdown penalty was awarded in the 36 th minute of the encounter, Chiefs made the decision to go for goal as Slade set up the kicking tee. Shockingly to the crowd, and Slade himself, the penalty was deemed unsuccessful as it seemed to have just skinned the upright.
Another penalty call a minute later and the centre immediately called for the posts again. On second attempt, the judgement of the angle was correct and the half ended with Chiefs within less than a converted score.
Half-time: Falcons 14 – 8 Chiefs
There looked to be a different intent about the Chiefs as they emerged for the second half. First onto the attack, Harvey Skinner dotted a ball off the boot for Jacques Vermeulen to run onto. The big South African back rower took the ball well and was brought down just on the edge of the 22. With that line break as the foundation, Exeter looked to build into their phases.
A penalty from the scrum at the 22 certainly aided things as it allowed Slade to send the ball into the corner for the set piece drive from Chiefs. Halted at the five metre line, the men in white went for the short and sharp carries as they inched ever closer to the Newcastle line.
An advantage came their way and the double centurion Yeandle took the quick tap to launch a fresh wave of attack. Excruciatingly, as Chiefs looked set to score, the hosts were awarded a penalty for Chiefs coming in off their feet at the ruck.
54 minutes played and Newcastle gave Chiefs an attacking chance. Miscommunication of the lineout call had the ball dropping off the back of the set piece. Josh Iosefa-Scott fed his fellow replacement Max Norey for a break. The hooker scampered from the halfway to into the Falcons’ 22. Playing across field, Chiefs had an advantage come their way but were penalised two metres from the line for not releasing as Falcons competed over the breakdown.
Another blow came for Chiefs shortly following as replacement Ross Vintcent had to be led from the field by medics for a HIA following a thumping tackle with Adam Radwan. The Chiefs men had the call at the time and quickly refocused to charge downfield into the Falcons 22. A Chiefs knock-on in the tackle gave Falcons the scrum deep into their own territory.
The next score came seemingly from nothing. Before the crowd could even compute what was happening, Ben Hammersley was tearing through the line in midfield with ball in hand, eyes trained on the try line. With Slade in support and only one defender to fool, he gave the pass to send the fan-favourite centre in for the try.
An agonising miss of the conversion attempt meant there was still more gritty work to be done by the Chiefs in the closing 15 minutes.
It was work they were willing to do. Eventual player of the match, Vermeulen took a massive, charging carry into the Falcons 22. Advantage was coming from referee Christophe Ridley as the forwards recycled tough ball near the line. Replacement Iosefa-Scott was ultimately the man to score – within such close range of the line, and with space in front of him, a man of his size was not to be stopped. Slade’s successful conversion drew a big cheer from the travelling Chiefs supporters.
The hosts looked to fight back with the minutes dwindling on the clock, with a scrummage opportunity in the Chiefs’ half taking play beyond the regulated 80 minutes. However, with the clock in the red, the Exeter pack showed its dominance one final time as Townsend fed the ball back from the forwards’ feet to be kicked into touch for the win.
Full-time: Falcons 14 – 20 Chiefs
Falcons: T Penny; A Radwan, M Moroni, C Hutchinson (Jennings 20’), I Stephens; L Johnson, J Elliott (O’Sullivan 72’); P Brantingham (Brocklebank 56’), J Blamire (Byrne 67’), E Bello (McCallum 60’), J Hawkins, K McDonald (Van Der Walt 56’), P Rubiolo, G Pepper (Cross 35’), C Chick (c).
Unused Replacements: L Brown.
Tries: Blamire, Moroni Conversions: Johnson 2
Chiefs: T Wyatt; I Feyi-Waboso (Haydon-Wood 12’, Hendrickson 20’), H Slade, J Hawkins, B Hammersley; H Skinner, T Cairns (Townsend 58’); S Sio (Hepburn 48’), J Yeandle (Norey 48’), E Painter (Iosefa-Scott 48’), R Tuima, D Jenkins (c), J Vermeulen, E Roots, A Davis (Vintcent 53’, Davis 58’).
Unused replacements: L Pearson
Tries: Feyi-Waboso, Slade, Iosefa-Scott Conversions: Slade Penalties: Slade
Referee: Christophe Ridley