Falcons leave Rotherham bedraggled and bemused

Newcastle 59 Rotherham 10
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The Independent Online

If Rotherham can take anything from this one-sided match, it is that for most of the first half they looked like a Premiership side. Which is longer than they have managed in any of their previous games.

The bad news is that well before the end they were bedraggled and bemused as Newcastle ran them ragged, scoring five unanswered tries after the interval, three of them going to Tom May, who claimed his second hat-trick of the season.

It is unlikely to get any better for the South Yorkshire outfit who face the same opponents in next weekend's sixth round of the Powergen Cup, and whose survival in the Premiership after their ninth successive defeat, is looking somewhere on the certain side of improbable.

Rotherham didn't protect the ball when they took it into contact. They made far too many unforced errors, and were unable to string any phases together, while they never found a way of preventing Newcastle from exploiting quick possession and putting their runners into space.

Rotherham's defensive frailties were exposed as early as the first minute of the match. Michael Stephenson was first into the breach, the gangly Craig Hamilton took it on for the rest of the Newcastle pack to drive James Grindal across for the try.

It took Rotherham 11 minutes to get into the Falcons' half. Once they did, Jon Benson kicked a penalty, though Dave Walder's conversion and a penalty made it 10-3. Another Walder penalty preceded Jamie Noon's first try, before Rotherham broke away for a most unlikely score.

Peter Smyth's kick was aimed at nowhere in particular and was sliced badly. Anthony Elliott made the most of a difficult bounce to race 40 metres to touchdown. Benson's conversion proved to be the last shot in their locker.

Walder, all self-assurance and well judged control, ran the show after the break which was reached at 23-10. May was the principal beneficiary, though Stephenson's unselfish pass accounted for one try, and a superb pass out of the tackle by Jon Dunbar accounted for the second. May outpaced Phil Jones for his third, before Noon and Matt Thompson completed the demolition job.

But Rob Andrew, Newcastle's director of rugby, is not prepared to treat next week's cup match against Rotherham at Millmoor as a formality. Andrew said: "We'll have to put this game out of our minds and start the process all over again."

Newcastle: Tries Grindal, Noon 2, May 3, Thompson; Conversions Walder 6; Penalties Walder 3. Rotherham: Try Elliott; Conversion Benson; Penalty Benson.

Newcastle: B Gollings; T May, J Noon (P Godman, 71), M Mayerhofler, M Stephenson; D Walder, J Grindal (H Charlton, 49); I Peel (D Wilson, 58), N Makin (M Thompson, 52), M Ward (D Williams 74), G Archer (capt), C Hamilton, J Dunbar (N Makin, 61; G Parling, 70), W Britz (E Taione h-t), P Dowson.

Rotherham: B Stortoni; A Elliott, P Jorgensen, J Pritchard (P Jones, 55), J Ewens; J Benson, J Rauluni (capt; M Rhodes, 76); N Lloyd (C Loader, 76), P Smyth (S Bunting, 60), J Rawson, J Pendlebury, L Gross, C Short (N Spence, 76), R Earnshaw, G Lewis.

Referee: D Rose (Birmingham).