Walder steers Falcons clear of Bees' sting

Newcastle Falcons 53 Pertemps Bees 3
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The Independent Online

There was never any chance that Newcastle were going to make the same mistake as Wasps in the quarter-finals and underestimate the challenge presented by Pertemps Bees in the Powergen Cup semi-final at Kingston Park yesterday.

There was never any chance that Newcastle were going to make the same mistake as Wasps in the quarter-finals and underestimate the challenge presented by Pertemps Bees in the Powergen Cup semi-final at Kingston Park yesterday.

But, having been made to work desperately hard to achieve their usual fluency, Newcastle eventually stretched away to win by a distance and set up an all-north final against Sale at Twickenham next month. This will be only the second final exclusively involving northern clubs, since Newcastle's forerunners, Gosforth, beat Waterloo in 1977. Given that Sale and Newcastle are two of the most attack-minded clubs in England, we could have a final based firmly on running games.

Newcastle are unlikely to be overawed by the occasion, with it being their third Twickenham final in the last five years. Moreover, there is a chance that two of their most influential players, Jonny Wilkinson and Mark Andrews, could have overcome long-term injuries before the big day. Both have targeted a testimonial match for Soa Otuvaka, who has an inoperable tumour, for their return to meaningful action, at Twickenham a week later.

For the Bees, this was their cup final. They tackled their hearts out, and while they never got close to scoring a try, they made life very difficult for the Premiership side, who only pulled away in the last 20 minutes, when they scored five of their seven tries.

Phil Maynard, the Bees' director of rugby, was full of praise for the way his side had fronted up. "It's been a great cup run for us," Maynard said, "and has put Birmingham back on the rugby map. If you take the last quarter out of the game we were competitive throughout. It's been a tremendous achievement."

The Bees needed to make an early impression, by playing as much of the game in Newcastle's faces as possible. But two needless penalties in the space of three minutes did not help the Birmingham club's cause, especially as the second was almost in front of the posts and only 18 metres out. If Dave Walder starts by missing his opening shots at goal, he invariably has a pretty miserable afternoon. But he made the most of both chances, opening up a six-point lead for the Falcons.

For most of the first half Newcastle were nervy and rarely without moments of anxiety. They might have settled sooner if Nick Makin had not nudged the corner flag as Newcastle sought to build on Mark Mayerhofler's first try. But they reached the break 16-3 ahead after Walder's conversion and third penalty, while Bees had only a penalty by Mark Woodrow to comfort them.

Although Walder kicked another penalty soon after the restart and scored a try on the hour, the scores would not come as Bees threw body after body in the way of their attackers. But then Michael Stephenson and Stuart Grimes both crossed, Walder added a second try, as did Mayerhofler, before Ben Gollings, who had come on as a late replacement for Stephenson, ended the Bees' resistance.

Newcastle: Tries Mayerhofler 2, Walder 2, Stephenson, Gollings, Grimes Conversions Walder 3 Penalties Walder 4. Pertemps Bees: Penalty Woodrow.

Newcastle: J Shaw (D Lilley, 77); T May, J Noon, M Mayerhofler, M Stephenson (B Gollings, 77); D Walder, H Charlton (J Grindal, 53); I Peel (M Hurter, 69), N Makin, M Hurter (M Ward, 30), G Archer (C Hamilton, 38), S Grimes, J Dunbar (P Dowson, 68), W Britz (Dowson, 46-56), H Vyvyan (capt).

Pertemps Bees: D Knight; N Baxter (G Gregory, 80), S Woof, M Davies, L Nabaro (A Takarangi, 80); M Woodrow, P Knight (T Richardson, 35); K Tkachuk, R Merritt (A Hubbleday, 55), T Sigley (M Long, 62), A Davidson (T Sigley, 69), E Orgee (capt; R Walton, h-t)), H Fakatou (D White, 64), N Carter, J Jenner.

Referee: C White (Cheltenham).

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