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Falcons win in Romania thanks to stoppage-time score
TOM CATTERICK spared Newcastle Falcons' blushes as his last-gasp penalty secured a 13-12 win over Bucharest Wolves in the opening round of matches in this season's Amlin Challenge Cup.
Despite facing a representative side made up of players from a number of different clubs, Newcastle's first competitive trip to Romania looked like ending in embarrassment as they trailed for the majority of an error-strewn game at the Arcul de Triumf.
However, Catterick stepped up to land a 20-metre penalty in stoppage time to ensure Falcons climbed to the top of their group as next weekend's opponents, Brive, were held to a 20-20 draw with Calvisano.
It shouldn't have been so tough for Falcons, who enjoyed a dream start as fly-half Joel Hodgson landed a first-minute penalty after Bucharest's forwards were penalised at the breakdown.
However, the visitors struggled to cope with their Romanian opponents' power up front, and were often second best in an attritional first half.
Vali Calafeteanu landed three penalties in the opening 20 minutes as the Falcons pack found themselves out-muscled, and with a series of Newcastle attacks foundering because of some slack handling, Bucharest extended their lead to 12-3 on the half-hour mark.
At that stage, the visitors looked in trouble, but they steadied the ship with a crucial try on the stroke of half-time. With Harrison Collins and Mark Wilson punching holes through the middle, centre Adam Powell was able to crash through a gap to score.
Hodgson's conversion made it 12-10, but after Kieran Brookes passed up a decent chance to score, there was further frustration when Hodgson's penalty attempt rebounded off the upright.
Bucharest winger Stephan Hihetah was sin-binned for deliberately knocking on late on, and the subsequent move resulted in the decisive penalty which Catterick landed to settle things.
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