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Amlin Challenge Cup: Brive take huge step towards knockout stages with scrappy win over Newcastle
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Brive took a huge step towards the knockout stages of the Amlin Challenge Cup with a scrappy 9-7 victory at Newcastle on Thursday night.
It means the French outfit now top Pool Three with one round of matches remaining and, provided they overcome rock bottom Calvisano on home soil next time out, it will be they who advance to the quarter-finals.
The Falcons will be kicking themselves after dominating possession and territory for long spells of the contest, but they were unable to turn that supremacy into points.
Indeed, all they had to show for their efforts was a converted penalty try as a chronic lack of imagination and urgency with ball in hand cost them dear.
Brive only managed three penalties from the boot of Thomas Laranjeira, but that proved enough for a win that saw them complete a double over their English rivals in this season's competition - and a fourth straight success over the Falcons.
Young fly-half Joel Hodgson, one of Newcastle's better performers, spurned a couple of penalty opportunities in the opening 25 minutes as his kicks drifted off target on the strong wind swirling around Kingston Park.
Laranjeira showed him how it was done just past the half-hour mark as he bisected the posts from 40 metres after Rob Vickers had been pinged for not releasing.
But Brive were put on the back foot by two yellow cards before the interval with Apisai Naikatini and Kieran Murphy both sent to the sin-bin in quick succession.
Having been warned by the referee after the award of two quick penalties at the scrum, a third infringement at the set-piece brought the hosts their penalty try which Hodgson converted from in front of the uprights.
The Falcons were unable to build on the lead despite their numerical advantage and instead it was Brive who reduced the arrears on 43 minutes when Laranjeira slotted his second penalty after a quick Brive counter when an untidy line-out ball had run loose.
The centre then missed two further penalty chances to edge his side back in front, whilst at the other end Newcastle lacked the guile to penetrate the visiting defence despite plenty of pressure.
It came back to haunt them six minutes from time when a fine break from Brive's Fijian wing Sevanaia Galala opened them up.
Some scrambling defence saw Murphy held up on the line as he looked to touch down but, after earning a penalty from the resulting scrum, the visitors opted to go for the posts and this time Laranjeira made no mistake as he landed what proved the decisive score.
In the evening's other game, Stade Francais beat Italian outfit Cavalieri Prato 31-3 to secure a bonus-point win that boosts their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.
Stade, who kicked off level on points with the London Irish in Pool Five, looked to have opened the door for Brian Smith's team as they struggled to get going.
However, tries from Richard Kingi and Anton Van Zyl in the final minutes secured a bonus-point win and top spot in the pool.