NEWCASTLE Falcons soared into the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup after a 15-try rout of Welsh part-timers Newport.
It felt less like sport and more like playground bullying at times, but despite the glaring disparity in athleticism and class, this was still the same side which had won the second half against the Falcons only eight days earlier.
A week of honest talking seemed to have done the trick, and Dean Richards’ unbeaten league leaders had the four-try bonus point inside 19 minutes as players took the ball at pace, selected sound attacking lines, defended with discipline and dominated every single facet.
Granted, the standard of opposition tempered any real significance in relation to their Premiership aspirations, but the manner in which Newcastle dispatched their limited foes was heartening in the extreme after a string of lukewarm showings.
Only four minutes in and they were warming to their task, Joel Hodgson making the most of another run at fly-half by dabbing a cheeky 22 drop-out to himself and setting in place a move which ended up with Ryan Shortland scoring down the left.
Ally Hogg bulldozed his way in for the second and an eighth penalty try of the season quickly followed from scrum pressure.
Fit-again second-rower James Hudson hit a superbly-judged straightening line to wrap up the bonus point, Rob Vickers rumbled over for the fifth and Falcons were even up to 40 points before the half-hour when Luke Fielden rounded off a silky two-on-one.
Newport were simply powerless to counteract the razzle-dazzle handling as Hodgson’s scissor put Rory Lawson in for number seven.
If it were a boxing match it would have been stopped in the first round, and the half-century was posted inside 36 minutes when Taiasina Tu’ifua bullied his way through.
Rob Vickers’ crafty move at the front of a close-range lineout secured a 57-0 interval lead, and the main talking point over the half-time Bovril was whether or not they could rack up the century.
The prospect of a record score was never likely given the 156-5 hammering dished out to Rugby Lions during the Falcons’ 1996-97 promotion campaign, but the tries kept coming as Lawson sniped in for his second only two minutes after the resumption.
Luke Fielden flew through a gaping defensive hole for number 11 after more superb decision-making from Hodgson, the 20-year-old fly-half whose burgeoning claims on a regular starting spot are becoming harder to ignore.
Traditional forward gristle provided the next score when Richard Mayhew was bundled over the try-line from a close-range maul down the left, and they passed the 80 mark on the hour when Hudson’s supporting run was rewarded with a scoring pass.
So brutal was the hosts’ domination of the scrum it hardly seemed safe to continue, and for the closing quarter Newport seemed more intent on starting fights than attempting to play rugby.
It all led to a disjointed finish, although there was still time for Fielden’s hat-trick when a lineout in the left corner was worked swiftly to the other wing for a well-worked team score.
Andy Higgins jogged in for the 15th of the afternoon, and stoppage time was all that remained to find the seven points needed for the century. Three figures proved to be a try too far, not that their director of rugby minded. Richards said: “The thing that pleased me most was how clinical we were.
“That is what upset us last week in Wales where we let our standards drop during the second half, but this time we maintained our levels throughout the full 80 minutes. Getting or not getting the hundred was neither here nor there.”
NEWCASTLE FALCONS: J Gopperth (A Higgins, 31), L Fielden, T Tu’ipulotu (J Fitzpatrick, 46), J Helleur, R Shortland, J Hodgson, R Lawson (J Pasqualin, 46); G Shiells (M Mayhew, 59), R Vickers, O Tomaszczyk (S Wilson, 65), S Tomes, J Hudson, A Hogg (captain, M Thompson, 76), R Mayhew, T Tu’ifua (C York, 60).
Falcons scorers - Tries: R Shortland, A Hogg, Penalty try, J Hudson 2, R Vickers 2, L Fielden 3, R Lawson 2, T Tu’ifua, R Mayhew, A Higgins. Conversions: J Hodgson 9.
NEWPORT RFC: E Frewen, O Broad, W Richards (D Robinson, 51), D Franchi (G O’Driscoll, 24), W Hodnett, S Sneddon, A Quick (R Downes, 51); D Pattison (J Jeune, 51), R Prosser, G Robinson (captain, D Rogers, 59), D Rosser, R Jones, B Lampitt (L Randell, 67), O Griffiths, C Everett.
Referee: N Perkins (Wales). Attendance: 3,947.