Newcastle, evidently, do not do "winning ugly". Yesterday at Twickenham the north-easterners beat Sale 37-33 to win the Powergen Cup (and with it a place in next year's Heineken Cup), in a marvellous match of open, running rugby.
The Falcons' last cup final, against Harlequins in 2001, was memorably won, 30-27, by Dave Walder's last-minute try. This time, there were five minutes to go when the substitute flanker Phil Dowson emerged from the bottom of a driving maul to claim the winning score.
Walder, playing at No 10 while the injured Jonny Wilkinson carried the water bottles, kicked four conversions and three penalties to three conversions and four penalties from Sale's Charlie Hodgson. Newcastle scored four tries and Sale three as the lead changed hands six times.
In both halves early Newcastle tries, from the flanker Warren Britz in the first and their captain and No 8 Hugh Vyvyan in the second, were cancelled out, first by Steve Hanley and then, thrillingly, by his wing partner Mark Cueto.
Newcastle responded to Cueto's try, full-back Joe Shaw scoring from Walder's pass, but centre Chris Mayor beat three defenders close in to put Sale in sight of a first domestic trophy in their 143-year history. Walder and Hodgson then traded penalties as the tension mounted. "When the music stopped," said the victorious director of rugby Rob Andrew, "whoever was in the chair would win the game." Thanks to Dowson, it was Newcastle.Reuse content