Newcastle gave English rugby something to cheer about as they ended their season with a flourish by routing beleaguered Leeds with an eight-try demolition at Kingston Park.
The Falcons today became the first club in the history of the Guinness Premiership to field an all-English 22, and few failed to deliver the goods as the relegated Tykes wilted – particularly in the face of a non-stop first-half barrage.
Promising centre Mathew Tait opened proceedings with an early try and was a constant danger throughout – while England fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, making his first start since his latest comeback from injury, knocked over five conversions in an accomplished display with the boot.
Anthony Elliott delivered a masterclass in finishing to grab a hat-trick – one a scintillating 60-yard effort – while Ben Woods, Tom May, Mike McCarthy and Ollie Phillips also got in on the try-scoring act. Leeds, consigned to the drop three weeks ago, were poor throughout – and their defence was breached at will by the buoyant Newcastle backs.
They did show improvement after the break, however – James Isaacson, Chris Murphy and Danny Care registering tries. The visitors had won just once in the league on their travels this season, and the desperate start they made soon indicated that unwanted record would remain intact.
Barely 45 seconds had been played when Newcastle, who benefited from a Leeds knock-on from Wilkinson’s kick-off, scored the first try.
Tait, the young centre who looks to be the answer to England’s midfield problems, received a pass by scrum-half Hall Charlton on the drift and easily side-stepped his marker five yards out to scuttle over.
A minute later, the Tykes lost their South African prop Kees Lensing to injury in what might be his last game for the club.
With Tait looking incisive every time he received the ball and the Falcons turning down seemingly simple penalty chances in favour of attacking line-outs, Leeds were permanently on the back foot.
The second try arrived in the 17th minute, young flanker Woods drifting off a maul 10 yards out to barge through some unconvincing tackling and go over.
Newcastle were rampant – and after the pack were held up a metre from the line five minutes later, Wilkinson fired out the ball to Phillips who in turn popped up a pass to fellow winger May to race over in the right corner.
With six minutes remaining in the half, Elliott scored the try of the afternoon to guarantee the Falcons a bonus point.
The full-back cut a great line 60 yards out to breeze through a porous Leeds midfield, before darting back inside to round opposite number Roland De Marigny and sail over.
In first-half injury time, flanker McCarthy got on the end of a deft back-handed pass from May to run clean through on the left – and he had too much gasfor even Leeds winger Andy Rock as he raced over.
Just as he had with his first four conversion attempts, the on-song Wilkinson made no mistake with his fifth to make it 35-0 at the interval.
Former Newcastle favourite Isaacson burrowed over from close range two minutes into the second half to register Leeds’ opening score, converted by Gordon Ross.
The Tykes’ mini-revival continued 11 minutes later when Murphy produced a finish similar to that of Isaacson, this time on the right wing, to make it 35-12.
The Falcons regained their fluency on the hour mark as Elliott recorded his second try of the game, slaloming over on the diagonal from 20 yards following a Wilkinson mis-pass.
Phillips became the sixth Falcons try-scorer of the day, in the 72nd minute, having set up Elliott for his hat-trick touchdown three minutes earlier.
Leeds rounded off the scoring with two minutes left, Care going over under the posts.