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Football: Strength in depth is a real positive; Nick Purewal's MATCH ANALYSIS.

Byline: Nick Purewal

Falcons 97

Cetransa 0

FIRST to the scorers, and what a catalogue that turned out to be. Four tries for England sevens flyer Ollie Phillips, a brace for returning captain Phil Dowson, then tries for Lee Dickson, Ben Woods, Matt Thompson, Brent Wilson, Geoff Parling, Tim Visser, Rob Vickers, Hall Charlton and Russell Winter.

Even better than the 71-10 win over in Valladolid back in the November sun, the team bettered that haul by four tries - and Phillips his personal tally by one.

Second to the outcome - a home quarter-final with Castres, and after Sale's slip-up, a probable semi-final meeting with Worcester.

Despite the French's propensity to travel with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, the Kingston Park clash in April will be a tough, but winnable, tie.

As for the possible trip to Worcester, right now John Fletcher's men probably think they could beat anyone, anywhere. Confidence is everything.

Third to what lies ahead - a daunting trip to Leicester in the Premiership, but one which the Falcons will relish after four wins on the spin since that late December triumph at Saracens.

Some top performers in the Development team have been pushing hard for first-team recognition of late, and they took their chance and then some against the plucky but limited Spaniards.

The likes of Ben Woods and Co did what they always do, but first-team flirter Phillips showed his clear finishing prowess, while Alex Tait showed his tough streak once again and Joe Shaw popped up to remind everyone of his evident class.

Steve Jones needed the game time with the Six Nations looming large, and got the chance to run the show after Toby Flood's withdrawal at half-time.

Rob Vickers grabbed a try to cap an industrious effort, and Sean Tomes powered his way through white shirts time and again.

The fact that the Falcons cruised home with a whole host of first-teamers rested spoke volumes about the months ahead.

Newcastle now have a squad, as opposed to a first XV and some decent stand-ins.

It is the kind of position John Fletcher was talking about engineering last season when he took the reins, and he seems on the cusp of attaining that.

Fourth to the future - and to understand that, you have to look backwards first.

A dismal, rain-soaked Friday night in Connacht on December 7 that ended in a 16-13 defeat could have spelled trouble for the Falcons' European Challenge Cup hopes.

Newcastle were certainly off-colour that night, letting victory slip away after a business-like first half.

Fast forward to last week, and another dismal, rain-soaked Friday night - this time in Brive La Gaillarde.

Had the Falcons reprised their Galway effort, they would have been blown out of the water, and out of the competition.

But they stood strong, turned in the kind of forward-dominated performance we can now expect, and edged out a fractious encounter.

The celebrations started then, and were finished in style yesterday in a hugely one-sided romp.

The Falcons can win this competition, but to do that they will have to perform well in some tough league games coming up.

Because, as Fletcher says, momentum and mindset make a team tough to beat.

STAR MARKS Mathew TAIT 8

Always a threat.

Ollie PHILLIPS 9

Cannot stop scoring this season.

Jamie NOON 8

Happy to be back - and he showed

Steve JONES 8

Ran the game well.

Tim VISSER 8

Used the ball well.

Toby FLOOD.9

Great kicking and fine line-breaking.

Lee DICKSON 8

Drove the pace as usual.

Joe McDonnell 8

Bullied his opponents.

Matt THOMPSON 7

Put himself about.

Micky WARD 7

A good outing.

Geoff PARLING.8

Took his try well.

Mark SORENSON 8

Did the necessary.

Ben WOODS 9

Scrapped all day long.

Brent WILSON 8

In great form this year.

Phil DOWSON 8

Two-try return, and a good performance.

Replacements

Rob VICKERS 7

For Thompson (47mins). Worked hard and grabbed a try.

David WILSON 7

For Ward (half-time). Bruising showing.

Sean TOMES 7

For Sorenson (half-time). Imposed himself physically.

Russell WINTER 7

For B Wilson (66mins). As canny a performance as ever.

Hall CHARLTON 7

For Dickson (half-time). Provided a good platform.

Alex TAIT 8

For Flood (half-time). Showed serious power with the ball.

Joe SHAW 8

For M Tait (half-time) Cool head at the back.

Opposition

CETRANSA EL SALVADOR: Luke Stanley; Tomas Brouwer (Ignacio Gutierrez, 28 mins); Jose Revilla; Redgahrt van Eyk; Raul Turrion; Alejandro Gutierrez (Eduardo Fernandez, 62 mins); Daniel Hunter; Ion Insausti (Cesar Caballero, 54 mins); Daniel Marron (Jose Zapatero, half-time); Manuel Serrano; Sergio Souto (Francisco Carrace-do, 69 mins); Oscar Benito; Fabio Galloppa; Jorge Molina (Alfonso Mata, 46 mins); Ivan Criado (c) (sin-bin, 49 mins).

Not used: Javier Miranda.

MATCH STATS

Scorers

Falcons: Tries: Phil Dowson 2 (5mins, 35mins); Ollie Phillips 4 (11 mins, 33mins, 80mins, 80+2mins); Dickson (13mins); Woods (17mins); Thompson (22mins); Wilson (38mins); Parting (40+3mins); Visser (44mins); Vickers (51 mins); Charlton (65mins); Winter (69mins). Cons: Toby Flood (12mins, 13mins, 18mins, 22mins, 34mins, 38mins, 40+4mins); Jones (44mins, 52mins, 80mins), Shaw (82m ins)

HALL OF SHAME

Cetransa: Ivan Criado, yellow-card (49 mins).

Referee

CEDRIC MARCHAUT (France) 6 The game took care of itself.

Attendance

4,872.

CAPTION(S):

EASY DOES IT: Phil Dowson is congratulated by Steve Jones and Ben Woods after one of his tries against Cetransa
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jan 21, 2008
Words:890
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