by Dylan James
JOHN Mulvihill’s Wales stars returned to the Blues squad as they dominated a vastly inexperienced Newcastle Falcons side in the opening round of the European Challenge Cup.
Aled Summerhill, Iestyn Harris and Owen Lane were pulled out of the Cardiff Blues side just 45 minutes before kick-off.
After some good ball retention from the Blues in the opening ten minutes, they were rewarded for their hard work with a penalty in front of the posts, which Jarrod Evans slotted to make it 0-3.
However, barely minutes later it was the Blues who conceded the next penalty, and Newcastle skipper Joel Hodgson made no mistake from the tee, 3-3.
Hallam Amos, who was initially supposed to start at full-back, opened the scoring on 18 minutes from the left wing. Despite some sloppy play in midfield, Garyn Smith secured a loose pass and shipped it out wide through Sam Moore and Matthew Morgan, with the latter having the simplest of jobs putting Amos in for the score.
The Blues were again unable to maintain their lead, as Falcons hooker Jamie Blamire made a stunning break through the heart of the Blues’ defence, before being tackled just inches from the try line. George Wacokecoke was on hand to secure the ball quickly and score in the next phase. Hodgson made no mistake from the tee, levelling the score at 10-10.
As the half hour mark approached, Newcastle failed to deal with another long Cardiff attack, and conceded another penalty. Evans added the extras, 10-13.
It was front-rower Blamire who stole the show again with Newcastle’s next try. The hooker was on hand to make an excellent pass out to Sam Stuart, who dove into the right corner for the Falcons’ second try of the game. Hodgson expertly whipped the ball over the posts from a very difficult position out on the right flank, 17-13.
Jarrod Evans closed the gap early in the second period, as the home side were penalised again, Evans executed another kick from the tee, 17-16.
A moment of magic kickstarted the second half as Tomos Williams went over for the Blues’ second try of the game. Hallam Amos launched a powerful box kick from deep and plucked the high ball from the air quite spectacularly, on his shoulder! Amos drew the defender, absorbed the contact and offloaded to Williams who whizzed through a gap to score under the posts. Evans made it seven, 17-23.
A series of changes were welcomed in the closing 20 minutes, with Rhys Carre, Lloyd Williams, Ethan Lewis, Scott Andrews, Gwilym Bradley, Max Llewelyn and Mason Grady taking the field. From that point, the scores were locked in until the 75th minute, when Joel Hodgson was on hand again to secure three points for the home team. 20-26.
Just moments later the Blues had another score through a penalty try, after some great pushing in the maul from Rhys Carre and Ethan Lewis. Newcastle’s Mark Wilson saw yellow for a double infringement after initially being offside, which ultimately led to the penalty try.
The Blues saw the game out well and kept Newcastle at bay during the closing minutes, with the Falcons being marshalled into touch to conclude the game. The final score finished 20-33.
STAR MAN – Hallam Amos
Confirmed teams pic.twitter.com/RmXN1cRdwh
— Newcastle Falcons (@FalconsRugby) December 11, 2020