|Cardiff (28) 42|
|Tries: Lane (2), Williams, Carre, Adams, Millard Cons: Priestland 6|
|Newcastle Falcons (3) 10|
|Tries: Walkers With: Schoeman pen: Schoeman|
Cardiff cantered into the last 16 of the European Challenge Cup with an easy win over 14-man Newcastle Falcons.
Owen Lane crossed either side of Lloyd Williams’ try before Elliott Obatoyinbo was shown a red card for a high tackle.
Rhys Carre and Josh Adams also scored tries to give Wales head coach Warren Gatland food for thought ahead of the Six Nations.
Alun Walker grabbed a consolation try on his Falcons debut but their miserable European campaign continues.
Newcastle remain firmly rooted to the bottom of Pool A without a single point yet bizarrely could still progress if they beat Connacht next week.
Cardiff, in contrast, moved top of the group and are within a win of securing a home tie in the next knockout round.
With Gatland in the 5,500 Arms Park crowd, Cardiff fielded an entirely Welsh qualified matchday squad.
Adams again enjoyed his switch to full-back, where he sees far more of the ball, and maintained his scoring streak with a seventh try in his last six appearances.
Young Wales hopefuls Mason Grady and Seb Davies also impressed in a dominant display, albeit against sloppy opposition.
Dai Young described Cardiff’s emphatic 47-10 win at Kingston Park in December as one of their most complete performances of the season.
He would have been even more thrilled as they raced into a 14-0 lead in five minutes.
Falcons had picked a far stronger side for this return tie in a bid to salvage any hope of progressing.
But they had their wings clipped by early scores from Lane and Williams.
A scrappy phase helped Newcastle clear their heads but time and again they were let down by their handling.
And when Lane picked off Peter Lucock’s telegraphed pass to gallop 60 meters untouched for Cardiff’s third, the writing was on the wall.
Newcastle had their chances but the line-out was stopped in its tracks and more inaccuracy allowed Taulupe Faletau to launch a length-of-the-field counter-attack that finished with a red card.
The irony for the Falcons was that Obatoyinbo did not need to make the tackle given Josh Turnbull’s clear forward pass.
Nevertheless, he did and in doing so, drove his shoulder into Jason Harries’ head and French referee Vivien Praderie’s mind was made up a minute before half-time.
Having spent 10 minutes defending their line, Cardiff were buoyant and Carre timed his burst perfectly to clinch a bonus-point fourth try on the stroke of half-time.
Down to 14 men and trailing 28-3, Newcastle were facing a challenge just to keep the score respectable but counted themselves lucky not to be another man down.
Replacement Argentine back-row Pedro Rubiolo somehow escaped punishment for a wild swinging arm just a minute into his club debut.
Cardiff still made the visitors pay, nudging the penalty up field before Adams latched onto Rhys Priestland’s smart inside pass.
Lucky to be on the pitch, Rubiolo then made the initial thrust that saw hooker Walker score from close range.
However Harri Millard, who had been receiving treatment seconds earlier, bravely raced half the length of the field to grab Cardiff’s sixth try virtually on one leg.
Millard left the field after the try and Lane followed but even with Cardiff’s replacement bench empty, Newcastle still failed to score even against 13 men.
Cardiff director of rugby Dai Young:
“It wasn’t perfect but there was a massive emphasis on starting well and we did that. We felt in control after that.
“We showed good defence, the line-out improved and we scored points, so it was a really positive performance.
“We’ve ticked the first box by qualifying, now we have to go to Brive next week with a patched-up backline and get the result to guarantee a home draw.”
Newcastle head coach Dave Walder:
“We looked like we were still in bed for the first 10 minutes and gave away two soft tries. We came back pretty well but the intercept try and red card really hurt us.
“As for the red card, Elliott put his hand up and said it was probably a decision that, in the current climate, we probably wouldn’t appeal against.
“We battled back, the scrum was good but we just weren’t clinical against an international-class team and only showed glimpses of what we can do.”
Cardiff: Adams; Lane, Grady, Thomas, Harries; Priestland, Lloyd Williams; Domachowski, Myhill, Assiratti, Davies, Teddy Williams, Turnbull (capt), Jenkins, Faletau
Replacements: Daniel, Carré, Davies-King, Ratti, Botham, Bevan, Evans, Millard
Newcastle: Obatoyinbo; Radwan, Orlando, Lucock, Stevenson; Schoeman, Stuart; Brocklebank, Maddison, Palframan, Peterson, Peters, Graham (capt), Marshall, Fearns.
Replacements: Walker, Mulipola, Tampin, van der Walt, Rubiolo, Young, Thomas, Stephens
Referee: Vivien Praderie (France)
Assistant referees: Herve Lasausa & Thierry Mallet (France)
TMO: Aurelie Groizeleau (France)