Newcastle Falcons are now just one win away from a perfect season having beat Plymouth Albion in a rain-soaked match 24-10 at Brickfields this weekend.
Nat Saumi made four changes to their team that played Bristol in their last outing a fortnight ago.
Bevon Armitage and Jon Vickers were injured and they were replaced by Keni Fisilau, who was making his farewell home appearance for Albion, and Luke Cowan-Dickie, who was making his first league start at hooker as he has been away with England U-20.
Other changes saw Rupeni Nasiga and Paul Bailey, both also making their final home appearances for the club, come in for Herbie Stupple and Lewis Warner, who dropped to the side line, were joined by Exeter forwards James Phillips and Alex Brown.
Newcastle Falcons had to cope with sodden conditions and a Plymouth Albion side but in the end the Falcons’ class told and they are now just one win away from a perfect regular season.
They have 21 wins from a possible 21 in the Championship, with just next week’s visit of Bristol to come, and despite some concerted home pressure before the break, in the end it was Newcastle’s forward power that proved the difference.
Ollie Stedman, who had kicked off the scoring with the first try of the game, was sent to the sin-bin early in the second half, and Plymouth looked like putting considerable pressure on Dean Richards’ men.
It looked like being a stroll in the park when the Falcons crossed for the first try after just six minutes, Stedman profiting from the first of many powerful Newcastle scrums to crash his way over.
Waisea Luveniyali, stepping in for the injured Jimmy Gopperth at fly-half, made no mistake with the conversion.
The momentum was with Newcastle but when they were penalised in their own territory, Albion’s Declan Cusack slotted a penalty to get Albion on the scoreboard.
Newcastle responded with an opportunistic try as Jamie Helleur was rewarded for a strong kick chase. Aaron Carpenter and Paul Bailey combined to make a misunderstanding of a high ball, and the Kiwi centre was on hand to stroll over for the simplest of tries. Luveniyali converted to extend the lead to 14-3. Former Bath academy youngster Paul Roberts then entered the pitch for the hosts, replacing the injured Cusack.
A delightful kick threaded through the Falcons defence allowed Toby Howley-Berridge to dot down, with Roberts converting.
Plymouth were looking the stronger heading into the break, and looked set to take advantage early in the second half when Stedman was given a 10-minute rest for foul play.
After missing for the first time in the game soon after, Luveniyali added another three points to stretch the Falcons’ lead beyond a converted try.
And although it was Plymouth who applied the greater pressure in the final quarter, Adam Powell was on hand to make the most of some good work by Helleur to score the visitors’ third try and final try.
Record league appearance holder Keni Fisilau, who will leave Albion this summer after 12 years with the city side, was initially left out of the squad to play Newcastle Falcons at Brickfields this afternoon in the club’s final home match. But due to an injury to fellow centre Bevon Armitage, Fisaila was called back into the squad for the final home game of the season.
McAtee said goodbye to Brickfields on Saturday. He joined fellow players Keni Fisilau, Aaron Carpenter, Sam Hocking, Paul Bailey, Wayne Sprangle and Coach Nat Saumi in saying farewell to the Brickfields crowd.
Plymouth Albion would like to say a big thank you to all the players for their hard work over the last few seasons, we wish them all the very best in the near future.
Canadian Sean-Michael Stephen was honoured to become the first person to win The Herald player of the year award twice.
Stephen claimed the 2012/13 prize, his countryman and last year’s winner Aaron Carpenter to the award.
Albion final game of the season will be away to Doncaster next Saturday, the travel club will be arranging a coach to follow the game. Please contact the club for more information.
Plymouth Albion: 15 Rhodri McAtee, 14 Paul Bailey, 13 Tobias Howley-Berridge, 12 Keni Fisilau, 11 Thomas Bowen, 10 Declan Cusack, 9 Ruairi Cushion (c), 1 Benjami Rogers, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 4 Brett Beukeboom, 5 Rupeni Nasiga, 6 Sean-Michael Stephen, 7 Samuel Matavesi, 8 Aaron Carpenter
Replacements: 16 Paul Roberts, 17 Lewis Warner, 18 Michael Stupple, 19 James Phillips, 20 Jamie Salter, 21 Alex Brown, 22 Samuel Hocking
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Waisea Luveniyali, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Carlo del Fava, 6 Ollie Stedman, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 James Hall, 18 Richard Mayhew, 19 Richard Mayhew, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick
Referee: Ross Campbell