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Aviva Premiership: London Irish crush Newcastle Falcons 40-12 at the Madejski
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London Irish wing Andy Fenby scored a hat-trick of tries as Newcastle were crushed 40-12 at the Madejski Stadium in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday afternoon.
In ideal playing conditions, the Falcons had no answer to the free-flowing play of the Exiles, who scored a total of six tries. Fergus Mulchrone, Eamonn Sheridan and Gerard Ellis also touched down, while James O'Connor kicked five conversions to complete the rout.
The visitors were totally outplayed in the first half and were already 40-12 down at the interval. The second half saw them put in a much-improved performance as Irish took their foot off the gas, but they could not add to their first half points - all via the boot of Rory Clegg.
On the strength of this performance, the Falcons appear fortunate to have a seven-point cushion over bottom club Worcester. Both sides have three games to play, but the Warriors are unlikely to claw back that advantage as they face a huge task with visits to Bath and Saracens.
Irish were able to include their skipper, George Skivington, who returned from injury. Shane Geraghty and Tomas O'Leary were at half-back, with Sheridan recalled at centre and academy star Ellis starting on the flank.
Newcastle welcomed back their captain Will Welch, with rugby league convert, centre Lee Smith, also included in the starting line-up.
The hosts were ahead after only three minutes. Topsy Ojo intercepted a loose pass from Jamie Helleur to put the Falcons on the back foot and, after a succession of forward drives, Fenby scored the try. O'Connor added the extras.
Clegg kicked a penalty for Newcastle but, from the restart, he had his clearance kick charged down to gift Mulchrone a try, which was converted by O'Connor so Irish were 14-3 up before eight minutes had elapsed.
Clegg kicked his second penalty but once again the visitors made a hash of the restart to give Irish another opportunity. It was easily taken as Fenby carved a hole in the Falcons' defence for his second try.
It was Irish tries against Newcastle kicks as Clegg kept his side in contention with another penalty to leave the visitors trailing 19-9 at the end of a hectic first quarter.
To begin with, the second quarter was less frenetic as Newcastle enjoyed greater possession and territory and were rewarded with a fourth success from Clegg.
However, Irish were not content with kicking penalties and continued to choose more attacking options.
That paid healthy dividends as Sheridan crossed for the bonus-point try, Fenby raced 45 metres to complete his hat-trick and Ellis scored Irish's third in an eight minute spell. O'Connor converted all three for a remarkable 40-12 half-time scoreline.
Newcastle made three changes at the interval, with Clegg departing to be replaced by Joel Hodgson. This stemmed the flow for the opening period of the second half as Irish rested on their laurels and could not extend their advantage as the third quarter saw no points.
Mike Blair had come on for the visitors during that period and he and Hodgson at half-back enabled Newcastle to dominate as Irish struggled to get out of their half.
The hosts also made substitutions, including that of the impressive Ellis, and those changes contributed to a disjointed second half.
However, they should have extended their lead when Geraghty neatly chipped ahead for Mulchrone to collect, only for the centre to hold onto the ball when a try seemed a certainty with a pass.
Irish's best chance of the half had been blown and the game fizzled out in a tame conclusion as the second half remained scoreless despite large periods of pressure from Newcastle.
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Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com