Fifteen minutes were all it took for Mike Brown to answer many of the questions that followed his summer switch to Newcastle Falcons, most of which concerned whether the player still has ‘it’.
The doubt is understandable considering Brown turned 36 soon after his move to the northeast, having ended his 16-year career with Harlequins at the end of last season.
But this latest chapter of Brown’s tale got off to a raucous start when he finally made his Falcons debut against Saracens on Saturday, crashing over for the game’s opening try inside a quarter of an hour.
The guests patiently played through phases as they moved further in-field, and Brown’s run was timed to perfection to cross under the posts off a short pass from scrum-half Louis Schreuder:
In typical fashion, the full-back put his own safety second en route to the whitewash, dodging a post as well as the 126-kilogram frame of Marco Riccioni to dart under.
One Falcons fan saw the debut as an encouraging sign of things to come with Brown in the team: “Great first half and Mike Brown showed what a great signing he will be.”
But those at The Stoop haven’t forgotten their loyal servant, as one Quins supporter tweeted: “Enjoy Falcons fans! He’ll time those killer lines to perfection all day every day!”
Newcastle made the superior start at the StoneX Stadium and at one point held a 14-point lead, with Ben Stevenson also crossing over inside the opening 20 minutes.
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The Falcons opened their season against Brown’s former employers, Harlequins, but a rib injury meant he missed out as Newcastle succumbed 26-20 at home to the Premiership titleholders.
Despite their latest loss to the five-time English champions, Newcastle can take heart from what was a valiant effort in unhospitable surroundings.
Richards expressed his regret not to have taken at least a losing bonus point back north, suggesting a certain Saracens star may have also played a role turning the referee’s favour.
“But for a few bounces of the ball or a few refereeing decisions we’d have been going up the road with something, but it wasn’t to be,” he told reporters after the result.
“We took our opportunities well in the first half – I thought Ben Stevenson’s try was incredibly well-finished – and everything seemed to be falling into our lap at that stage.
“The momentum turned and the referee seemed to get on our back, so for us it’s just about being streetwise and understanding how to change that perception.
“We didn’t quite do that, Owen Farrell was in his ear the whole time and that changed the momentum of the game.”
Newcastle Falcons will hope to celebrate their first win with Brown in the team next Saturday when they host Bristol Bears, who have lost three of their four games so far this term.