NEWCASTLE Falcons still have home advantage to play for despite already securing themselves a British and Irish Cup quarter-final place.
Sunday’s 93-0 rout of Welsh Premiership side Newport leaves Newcastle with an unassailable 12-point lead at the top of Pool C with two group games still remaining.
The Falcons have become the first team to secure safe passage through to the last eight, only the group winners booking their place in the knockout stages from the 32 competing clubs.
Newcastle still have a home date with Irish province Connacht Eagles and a trip to Welsh part-timers Cross Keys left to go next month, with victory in one of those all but certainly securing a home quarter-final.
The format of the competition ranks the qualifying clubs from one to eight based on the number of points accrued during the group stages, with the top four guaranteed a home draw.
Rather than the European format where the best qualifier automatically faces the worst, however, the best four home quarter-finalists face a random draw to see which of the four lesser seeds they will welcome on the weekend of April 5-7.
As things stand it is fellow English heavyweights Bedford, Bristol and Cornish Pirates who are poised to occupy the other three home slots, with the four remaining group leaders being Leinster, Moseley, Munster and Llandovery.
Irish province Munster’s second-string are the holders after defeating Cross Keys in last year’s final, but few would bet against a Newcastle side fresh from Sunday’s 15-try rout.
Touching down three times against Newport was winger Luke Fielden, who was quick to highlight a monumental improvement on the previous week’s struggle against the same opposition.
He said: “Sunday was a much better performance than the week before and we were all really disappointed with how we performed in Wales.
“We were determined to put that right, and scoring 93 points against anybody is a positive.”
Elaborating on the reasons behind the improvement, Fielden added: “We were much more clinical on Sunday.
“We had done a lot of work linking forwards and backs and the evidence of that was shown on the field.
“We created plenty of opportunities in Wales the week before, but just were not clinical enough in putting them away.
“We may have missed a clearout, a pass did not go to hand or we didn’t hold our depth in the backs, and we allowed a dogged side to come back into it.
“We gave them a sniff and they made it a difficult afternoon for us, so we were adamant there wasn’t going to be a repeat of that at Kingston Park.” Surging into a 57-0 half-time lead and falling narrowly short of the century, Fielden said: “It would have been nice to get the hundred, but you can’t have everything.
“We did leave a few tries out there, which was a little bit frustrating, and if we had managed to score those then the hundred was ours for the taking.
“You can’t complain after winning 93-0, though, and there were plenty of positives from the afternoon.
“It was a lot of running, that’s for sure, but it was really enjoyable. Everybody had a smile on their face knowing they were getting lots of touches of the ball, and even though there was a lot of space out there nobody seemed to get selfish.
“We took the right options when the opportunities presented themselves and hopefully that is something we can repeat as the season goes on.”
The Falcons return to league action on Sunday when London Scottish make the trip to Kingston Park, the Exiles having taken a four-try bonus point from a 49-32 loss when the teams met in September.