Leeds and Newcastle contested the dreariest of draws at Headingley in this third-round Anglo-Welsh Powergen Cup Pool C match, which sparkled with inertia, and neither side able to summon much in the way of attacking flair.
Neither of them deserved to win, though if Matt Burke had secured a stoppage-time penalty, the Falcons would have made it. One hopes that when Leeds and Newcastle meet here in the Premiership at the end of the month, the crowd will be treated to some meaningful creativity. With interest in the Pool at best lukewarm once Sale announced they were taking a shadow side to West Wales, main interest centred on the shape of the teams fielded by Phil Davies and Rob Andrew.
Davies put out a Tykes team which bore little resemblance to those who won their two most recent games in the Premiership, with only Gordon Ross being first choice among the backs and captain Stuart Hooper up front. Newcastle's Andrew chose to rest some of those nursing their aching bodies after the bruising defeat of Wasps last Sunday.
The Newcastle defence never faltered in the face of a determined opening onslaught by Leeds and the Falcons went ahead when Burke struck a fine penalty. Once Leeds established a foothold in Falcons' territory, Ross replied in kind, which was the spur for Leeds to put their attacking potential to the test.
Dave Doherty finished off their most authoritative move by deceiving Joe Shaw with a high-speed dummy for a smashing individual try. Shaw's missed tackle earned the winger a tongue-lashing from Burke, and the Falcons' embarrassment was complete with Ross' angled conversion, to which the Scot added a snap dropped goal to make it 13-3. Newcastle reduced the deficit when Cory Harris was driven across from a line-out drive, but Burke pushed the conversion wide so it stayed at 13-8 until the interval.
Given the chance Tom Biggs can do some damage, and as alert as ever, he beat the Falcons' cover, weaving in and out of the traffic to latch on to Ross' neat chip for a well-worked try. Far from stung by this reverse, Newcastle were laboured. Shaw was able to atone for his earlier indiscretion with a try in the 62nd minute, which Burke converted to make it 18-15. That became 18-18 when Burke slotted a penalty in the 78th minute. But the Australian's last miss said it all.
Leeds: Tries Doherty, Biggs; Penalty Ross; Conversion Ross; Drop goal Ross.
Newcastle: Tries Harris, Shaw; Penalties Burke 2; Conversion Burke.
Leeds: D Doherty; A Rock, R Vickerman, C Jones (C Bell,52), T Biggs; G Ross, D Care (M McMillan, 68); M Cusack (D Paul, 78), G Bulloch, J Isaacson (G Kerr, 64), K Myall, S Hooper (capt) (C Murphy, 52), N Thomas, D Hyde (R Vasey, 77), R Reid (J Dunbar, 52).
Newcastle: M Burke (capt); J Hoyle, J Noon, M Mayerhofler, J Shaw; T Flood (D Walder, 51), J Grindal; M Ward (T Paoletti h-t), A Long (M Thompson, h-t), R Morris, A Perry, G Parling, M McCarthy, C Harris, J Smithson (C Charvis, 57). Replacements not used: A Buist, O Finegan, O Phillips.
Referee: W Barnes (Middlesex).