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Joy for Newcastle on a historic night for referee Neville

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Newcastle Falcons took a significant step towards topping European Challenge Cup with a 27-25 victory over the Dragons, while Joy Neville became the first woman to referee a continental men’s fixture in the group’s other match.

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Last weekend’s bonus-point win against Bordeaux Begles had opened up a four-point lead for Newcastle over the Welsh region, but top spot was on the line in their trip to Newport.

The Falcons raced into a 14-0 lead inside 15 minutes before two tries from Elliot Dee and seven points from the boot of Gavin Henson turned the half on its head.

Gary Graham touched down before the interval to help Newcastle into a 24-17 half-time lead but Ashton Hewitt crossed and Henson split the posts again to edge the Dragons back in front.

Newcastle were left to rely on a penalty from Joel Hodgson – their only points of the second half opening up a seven-point lead at the top of the group, as Bordeaux climbed above the Dragons.

Bordeaux’s 36-27 over Enisei-STM was notable for referee Neville’s historic European bow, but also for the Russian side’s admirable performance, achieving their biggest away points haul in the Challenge Cup.

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Compatriots Krasny Yar showed no such resistance as they were steamrollered 78-0 by Pool 4 leaders Edinburgh, while the previously winless Oyonnax beat Worcester Warriors 27-20 to get off the mark in Pool 5.

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