NEWCASTLE Falcons strengthened their control at the top of the Championship by securing a bonus-point win over their closest challengers, Nottingham, at Kingston Park this evening.

Falcons ran in four tries without reply as they extended their 100 per cent start to the season to nine league wins out of nine.

The victory leaves Dean Richards' side 13 points clear of Nottingham at the top of the table and strengthens the view that they are simply too good for English rugby's second tier.

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Falcons opened the scoring when Richard Mayhew crossed the try line in the first half, with Jimmy Gopperth's conversion making it 7-0.

Nottingham were competitive opponents in the first half and two penalties from James Arlidge took the visitors to within a point of Newcastle at the interval.

A Gopperth penalty gave Falcons some breathing space at the start of the second half, and the hosts extended their advantage further when full-back Alex Tait crossed under the posts at the end of a slick passing move.

Newcastle's forward dominance was a feature of the second half, and a succession of infringements from the Nottingham pack resulted in the award of a penalty try with five minutes left.

The hosts poured forward relentlessly in search of a bonus point, and it arrived in the closing stages as Luke Fielden scored on the left-hand side after a well-worked passing move.