Newcastle's young outside-half Toby Flood stole the show in a European Challenge Cup quarter-final match at Kingston Park last night. Flood contributed 18 points with a display brimming with self assurance and calm control.
Connacht made a promising start - with scrum-half Chris Keane probing for openings and serving his back-line well with some long passes - but were soon eclipsed by Newcastle's approach work, buttressed by solid work from the forwards. Flood was prominent from the start, releasing Anthony Elliott in one move and creating uncertainty in the Connacht midfield with another.
As Connacht strived to bring some order to their game, Flood struck with his first penalty. His next strike was even more painful for the Irishmen.
A Connacht move inside the Falcons' half broke down, Flood gathered the ball, banged it 60 metres downfield and outpaced what remained of the Connacht defence to touch down wide on the right. His conversion fairly flew between the uprights. As did his second penalty to make it 13-0 to Newcastle after just 22 minutes.
Connacht's outside-half, Paul Warwick, atoned for an earlier missed penalty by scoring from an easy position for their first points. Connacht might have been closer than 13-3 at the interval, but whenever they appeared on the cusp of a breakout, they failed to pierce the blanket Newcastle defence.
With the rain teeming down in the third quarter, Newcastle's handling deteriorated. They made an awful mess of a lineout drive, were driven back 70 metres after Tom May's kick went awry but, despite these errors, Connacht were unable to add to their score.
The hard working Mike McCarthy was shunted over for the Falcons' second try, which Flood converted. Connacht then lost Michael Swift to the sin bin. The penalty was a formality. The Irishmen had been submerged by a flood tide.
Newcastle: Tries Flood, McCarthy; Conversions Flood 2; Penalties Flood 3; Connacht: Penalty Warwick.
Newcastle: Burke, May, Noon, Mayerhofler, Elliot (Walder, 75)Walder, Flood, Charlton (Grindal, 47), Williams (Morris, 40; Woods, 72), Thompson (Long, 40), Ward, Gross (Perry, 59), Parling (Finegan, 80), McCarthy, Harris, Charvis (capt).
Connacht: McHugh, Mostyn, Mailei, Matthews, McPhillips (Slemen, 51; Williams, 54), Warwick, Keane (Tierney, 67), Hogan, Fogarty (Merrigan, 80), Knoop (Clarke, 70), Gannon (Short, 45), Farley, Muldoon, Lacey, Rigney (Swift, 70).
Referee: E Darriere (France).