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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 January, 2005, 14:49 GMT
Newcastle 25-17 Dragons
HEINEKEN CUP POOL 5
Matt Burke receives the congratulations of his team mates
Newcastle (13) 25
Tries: Charvis, May, Burke
Cons: Burke (2)
Pens: Burke (2)
Dragons (5) 17
Tries: Wyatt, Morgan, Gough
Cons: Sweeney
Att: 7,104

A powerful pack display helped the Falcons top Pool Five and secure their first Heineken Cup quarter-final place.

Tries from Colin Charvis and Tom May put Newcastle in charge, but the Welsh side's talented backs kept them in it, Gareth Wyatt and Kevin Morgan scoring.

Matt Burke, only playing after passing a late fitness test, kicked 10 points and sealed the win after scything through for a 77th-minute try.

The Dragons' loss leaves Wales without a representative in the quarter-finals.

It is the first time in the tournament's history that no Welsh side has reached the knock-out stages.

After the furious war of words in the build-up to the game, the match developed as a mirror image of last October's fiery encounter at Rodney Parade.

It was a great performance by our forwards and the backs held their own
Matt Burke
Newcastle's pack took a stranglehold on territory and possession, turning over ball at the breakdown and denying the Welsh side the space to exploit their dangerous backs.

Australian full-back Burke opened the scoring for the Falcons with a penalty which came from a strong scrum.

Dragons captain Jason Forster left the field after taking a heavy knock, and with his side down to 14 men the pressure mounted.

The Falcons dragged the defence from one side of the field to the other to send wing Stephenson flying for the corner.

He was cut down by Jamie Ringer, but found Charvis in support for the opening try.

Gareth Wyatt's try got the Dragons back in the game
Gareth Wyatt's flair gave the Dragons hope
The visitors finally got into the game after kicking a penalty to touch for an attacking line-out.

They drove a rolling maul before a quick pass to Wyatt allowed the wing to finish well in the corner.

The Falcons' forward dominance continued, though, and when Sione Tuipulotu was put under pressure in midfield the centre's deliberate knock on led to a yellow card and Burke's second penalty.

Another turnover at the start of the second half seemed to secure the game for the Falcons, the tight five driving up the middle before quick ball was released to May who had the pace to sprint in at the corner.

But the influential Charvis was substituted and a slick Dragons back-line move from first-phase scrum ball gave the visitors hope.

Because we don't compete at a high level week-in, week-out, it's tough to lift yourself and handle the pressure
Dragons coach Chris Anderson
Wyatt made the break after some excellent miss-passing, before the wing sent out a perfect ball to Morgan who took the pass at full pace and was able to sprint 40 yards for a converted try.

With the scores at 18-12 Burke missed a penalty chance to seal the game, but made amends soon after.

The forwards rumbled the ball through eight phases before releasing to the backs and as the Dragons defence rushed forward Burke saw the gap and cut through for a converted score.

A desperate attack sparked by Ceri Sweeney deep in his own half led to a fine Ian Gough try after good work from Gareth Cooper and Peter Sidoli, but it was no more than a consolation.

"It was a great performance by our forwards and the backs held their own," said Burke.

"The key to it was our discipline, we did not give away penalties.

"We had a lot of injuries, but there's great enthusiasm and spirit in this club and it's a fantastic effort to get into the Heineken Cup quarter-finals."

Dragons coach Chris Anderson blamed the lack of intensity in the Celtic League for his side's failure to make a mark in Europe.

"We gave 100% but, because we don't compete at a high level week-in, week-out, it's tough to lift yourself and handle the pressure at times," he said.

"We don't lack ability. It's just that they are playing tough games every week and we probably have some weeks where we get away with playing some soft games and you learn some bad habits through that."


Newcastle: Burke; May, Tait, Noon, Stephenson; M Wilkinson, Charlton; Peel, Long, Ward Gross, Grimes, McCarthy, Charvis, Dowson.
Replacements: Thompson, Isaacson, Shaw, Mayerhofler, Grindal Sititi, Taione.

Dragons: P Montgomery; G Wyatt, H Luscombe, S Tuipulotu, K Morgan; C Sweeney, G Baber; A Black, S Jones, R Thomas, I Gough, P Sidoli, J Ringer, J Forster (capt), M Owen.
Replacements: J Richards, R Snow, C Anthony, N Edwards, R Oakley, G Cooper, C Warlow.

Referee: Allan Lewis (Ireland)




SEE ALSO
Heineken Cup 2004/5
29 Jun 04 |  European Club
Dragons refuse to appease Andrew
12 Jan 05 |  European Club
Wilkinson tipped to bounce back
11 Jan 05 |  Rugby Union


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