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GUNNERS GO DOWN FIGHTING

Newcastle 34 Edinburgh 24



The Gunners' European adventure effectively ended at Kingston Park this afternoon in the most agonising fashion after a game that they had led for long periods. With the Falcons hoping for a big win to retain their lead at the top of the group, Edinburgh gave them more than a scare for 70 minutes. But three tries in eight minutes late in the game gave Newcastle a crucial bonus point win.

With the Dragons' excellent win last night at Rodney Parade over Perpignan, the group is indeed becoming a dogfight, giving the Gunners hope that all was not lost, despite their two previous reverses. Both of these teams needed to win today's game - and next week's - to have a realistic chance of progressing to the quarters.

After early Newcastle pressure from the kick-off, with Newcastle trying to get in visiting faces in the first quarter, Edinburgh hit back well, taking a good maul into Falcons 22 with Blackadder to the fore. Laney jinked past Walder and the New Zealander Mayerhofler, then Southwell took on deep into the home 22. With the visiting support in characteristically vocal form, the Gunners' maul was looking very solid. Several Newcastle infringements, allowing Paterson to stroke over the penalty for an early 3-0 lead with five minutes on the clock.

Another Laney break in the Falcons' 22 set up more Gunners' forward drives close in. A few phases later, Laney stepped inside former Lion Colin Charvis for the smartly taken dropped goal on eight minutes. Edinburgh were keeping hold of the ball very well, with the rolling maul again looking in good working order. With the absence from the home starting XV of Scottish internationals Grimes and Hamilton, Ali Kellock and the originally-nicknamed Fergus "Ferg" Pringle were winning good ball in the lineout.

Indeed, it wasn't until the end of the first quarter that Newcastle showed in attack, with Walder and Mayerhofler to the fore, with the former knocking over the second dropped goal of the game. Shortly afterwards, Di Rollo had to look lively to tidy up a charged-down Laney clearance as the home side started to come into the game. Hugo was also looking confident in defence. But the Gunners stretched the lead back to six points once more with another Paterson penalty.

A Burke penalty on 25 minutes cut the lead to three in what was a tight game. The Falcons were beginning to test the visiting defence, and Noon's pace saw him over for the try in the corner with five minutes of the half to go. Burke's conversion gave the Falcons a 13-9 lead. The half drew to a close with the Gunners having some useful moments in attack, with Di Rollo looking dangerous whenever he had the ball.

Moving into injury time, Edinburgh got a nudge on at a Newcastle scrum five metres out from their own line. Laney kicked the penalty to the corner, the Gunners' lineout did its business, and Captain Blackadder pirouetted daintily over for the try with the referee playing advantage for a Newcastle offence. As the pipers cranked into life, one of the Celtic League's deadliest marksmen, Chris Paterson, nailed the conversion from wide out for the 16-13 half-time lead.

While the Gunners' maul had dominated in the first half, the visitors moved out to the wings from the off in the second period, putting Newcastle under early pressure. But the Falcons moved the ball well when they relieved the pressure on 50 minutes, with Tom May coming close to the Gunners' line. Laney cleared infield after a Blair dart, and May's knock-on gave the Gunners good field position.

Shortly after, Hugo sparked an excellent Edinburgh attack from his own 10, then Paterson skinned Charvis and only a super Mayerhofler tackle stopped what looked like a certain Mossy try as the winger was penalised for holding on in the tackle just inches from the line. The tackle was later to prove crucial.

After some handbagging among the front row on 55 minutes, Long went to the bin after an altercation with Jacobsen, with the latter following him. The Gunners were awarded the penalty, presumably because Long was the instigator. Paterson slotted the goal for a 19-13 Gunners lead as the game entered the final quarter.

Just before the power play ended, Newcastle disrupted a defensive Edinburgh scrum and Jamie Noon alertly nipped over for the try, converted by Burke, to regain the lead by a point with 15 minutes left. Shortly afterwards, Stephenson notched the Falcons' third try as Newcastle injected some pace into their game. Their fourth try was not long in coming, with a Grimes burst putting Burke over for the try that ended the Gunners' Heineken campaign.

After putting in a good shift at the foot of the scrum, Mike Blair crossed for the consolation try deep into injury time.

MAN OF THE MATCH:

MATT BURKE, who featured well in a match-winning performance by the Newcastle back division in the second half.

SCORERS:

Newcastle: Burke 4C 1P 1T, Walder DG, Noon 1T, May 1T, Stephenson 1T

Edinburgh: Paterson 3P 1C, Laney DG, Blackadder 1T, Blair 1T

TEAMS:

NEWCASTLE: Burke; May, Noon, Mayerhofler, Stephenson; Walder, Charlton; Peel, Long, Ward, Gross, Buist, McCarthy, Charvis, Dowson
Replacements: Isaacson, Hurter, Grimes, Sititi, Grindal, Taione, Shaw

EDINBURGH: Hugo; Paterson, Di Rollo, Dey, Joiner, Laney, Blair; Jacobsen, Hall, Smith, Pringle, Kellock, Blackadder (capt), Callam, Hogg. Replacements: Kelly, Dickinson, Strokosch, Lawson, Godman, MacDougall.

Referee: Joel Jutdge (France)