Burke hat-trick sinks dogged Leeds

Newcastle 29 - Leeds 16
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The Independent Online

Newcastle left it late before claiming a victory which looked as if it would elude them. Although Leeds hardly put a foot in the Falcons' half after the break, the home side allowed themselves to be pushed off their own ball at the scrum, to be dictated to at several line-out drives from penalties and turned over a glut of possession.

On the back of four wins from their last five Premiership games, Leeds must have believed that this would be another victory and until Jamie Noon crossed in the 75th minute, the Falcons did not deserve to get their noses in front. From there - though Noon took a knock on the head which may keep him out of the England squad as they prepare to face South Africa on Saturday - nothing seemed more certain than Newcastle would triumph, and they claimed a bonus point when Matt Burke completed his hat-trick of tries in the eighth minute of stoppage time.

"We played it right to the end," said Burke. "For once we were able to finish off our game. While it was nice for me to score three tries, the first was a team try. What was more important was that we played to our ability and got a bonus point."

Newcastle first looked dangerous when James Grindal cleared the ball from under a heap of bodies and quick hands enabled Burke to cross in the corner. But two penalties from Tim Stimpson kept Leeds in it. David Rees then intercepted a pass by Andy Long and the ball was moved left with Gareth Wright and his fellow South African Andre Snyman each playing a part in helping Diego Albanese, who had replaced Iain Balshaw, to score. Stimpson converted and Leeds were 13-5 up at the interval.

Balshaw's suffered nothing more than a kick on the hip, while Wright's introduction to the Premiership was marked with a broken nose. A persistent nosebleed did not prevent Burke from narrowing the gap to a point with his second try and cancelling out Stimpson's third penalty with his third.

Newcastle: Tries Burke 3, Noon; Conversions Walder 2; Penalty Walder. Leeds: Try Albanese; Conversion Stimpson; Penalties Stimpson 3.

Newcastle: M Burke (J Shaw, 29-38); T May, J Noon (Shaw, 80). E Taione, M Stephenson (M Tait, 68); D Walder, J Grindal; I Peel (capt; M Hurter 77), A Long, M Ward (J Isaacson, 63), C Hamilton, A Buist, S Sititi (M McCarthy, 63), C Harris, P Dowson.

Leeds: T Stimpson; I Balshaw (D Albanese, 29), C Bell, A Snyman, D Rees; G Wright, A Dickens; M Shelley, M Regan, R Gerber (M Holt, 59-78), S Morgan (C Murphy, 59), T Palmer (capt), J Dunbar, C Rigney, A Popham.

Referee: S Leyshon (Gloucestershire)