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Falcons edge out Leeds to maintain 100 per cent record
NEWCASTLE Falcons retained their 100 per cent record at the top of the Championship, but were forced to work as hard as they have all season to secure a 13-9 win over Leeds Carnegie.
With the game having been switched to Otley yesterday lunchtime, Falcons were forced to overcome a mud bath to make it 14 wins out of 14 in the league.
Ryan Shortland scored the game's only try, with Jimmy Gopperth adding a conversion and two penalties to see off a committed Leeds side.
Falcons claimed the lead in the fifth minute with Gopperth landing his first penalty after the Leeds pack were adjudged to have committed an offence at the breakdown.
The visitors extended their lead with the only try of the afternoon shortly after, with full-back Tom Catterick breaking clear before freeing Shortland for a run to the line.
Gopperth's conversion made it 10-0, but Joe Ford's penalty got Leeds on to the board towards the end of the first half and the hosts exerted some concerted pressure at the start of the second period.
The Falcons defence held firm, although Ford's second penalty brought Leeds to within four points at the hour mark.
Gopperth's missed penalty briefly looked like it could prove costly, but the New Zealander made it 13-6 with a successful effort in the 70th minute.
Ford's third penalty ensured a nervy conclusion, but Falcons withstood a late Leeds surge to cement their position at the top of the table.
Darlington Mowden Park attracted another large crowd to The Northern Echo Arena on Saturday afternoon, but were unable to make it two wins out of two at their new home.
Mowden suffered a 28-27 defeat to second-placed Hull Ionians that dealt a major blow to their hopes of securing a play-off place in National Two North.
Mowden opened the scoring after three minutes when full-back Chris McTurk claimed a try, but Hull levelled midway through the first half through flanker Joe Sanders.
With Mowden prop Dan Miller sin binned for killing the ball, Hull made the most of their numerical advantage as Stephen Johnson's try secured a 12-5 lead at the interval.
Mark Wigham scored Hull's third try at the start of the second half, before a major flare-up led to Mowden winger Shaun McCartney being sent off along with a member of the Ioanians backline.
McTurk and Cameron Mitchell scored as Mowden staged a revival, but while a late try from Luke Wishnowsky ensured the hosts finished with two bonus points, the defeat means they face a huge battle to haul themselves into the top two in the remainder of the season.
Blaydon also suffered a one-point defeat in National One, going down 21-20 at home to Blackheath.
The Tynesiders struggled to cope with a malfunctioning line-out all afternoon, and despite dominating possession, paid a high price for a steady stream of errors.
They scored tries through Sean English, Jordi Pasqualin, Tom Banks and Sam Hanks, but a late score from Blackheath's Sean Moan meant Blaydon were forced to content themselves with a brace of bonus points.
Tynedale also finished on the losing end of a hard-fought game in National One, going down 33-20 at Cinderford.
Billingham were emphatic winners in National Three North, hammering Birkenhead Park 32-0. Percy Park went down 30-17 at home to Waterloo, while West Hartlepool slipped to a 29-13 reverse at Kendal that sent them crashing to the bottom of the table.
Stu Waites and Luke Mallinson scored late tries for the visitors, but West never really recovered from the first-half loss of scrum-half Ryan Painter with a shoulder injury.
In North One East, Northern edged out Morpeth 20-16, but Darlington lost 16-15 at home to Pocklington and Durham City were hammered 62-26 by Malton and Norton.
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