All four group hosts are heading to the Stoop for Friday's Premiership Rugby 7s Final after Newcastle turned on the style on Saturday.
All four group hosts are heading to the Stoop for Friday's Premiership Rugby 7s Series Final after Newcastle turned on the style in Darlington on Saturday.
The first three games of the group were decided by five points or fewer but after a tense start the Falcons and Leicester Tigers eventually separated themselves from the pack at the expense of London Welsh and Sale Sharks.
Newcastle – led by Tom Catterick – were the stand-out unit, completing a clean sweep and joining fellow hosts Cardiff Blues, Gloucester and Northampton for the Series Final on August 8.
Newcastle Falcons 7s coach Mark Laycock firmly believes his side can repeat their heroics of 2011 and win the Series Final at the Stoop. Laycock was in charge when the Falcons stormed to the title three years ago and while this current squad has a different make-up, he insists that clinching the title is not beyond his new recruits.
“I think we were a little bit rusty in the first game, the second game we played a lot better and the boys showed what they are capable of,” Laycock said.
“Every squad is different – the key is making sure the group stick together and stay with each other to the death, and that's what we had in 2011. I fully believe this side is capable of going the whole way once again.
“This squad has never been blessed with a huge amount of speed so we have to adapt. Sometimes we're a little bit more physical, a little bit more direct, but ultimately we're playing up to the strengths of the lads.”
Newcastle delivered an early blow to Tigers' hopes of progressing with a 26-21 win in the opening game and Geordan Murphy's side were left to thank Dan Rundle and his last-minute score against London Welsh to ensure they were not eliminated early.
Tigers then went on to finish in style against Sale and guarantee their spot at Finals night – and Murphy admits his players have done better than expected.
“It's really good to qualify from the group because we knew there were some quality sides out there,” Murphy said.
“We heard London Welsh had been doing a lot of training, coming up here last night and training hard. Sale are obviously a good team who beat us in 7s last year.
“So we're delighted to get out of our group and that we've now got a chance in the Finals. We were very rusty and it was difficult to gel but after we lost to Newcastle by four points I thought the spirit the guys showed was amazing.
“We improved on that, improved on our defence. We got a bit lucky in our second game with a last-minute try but then we stepped it up again.”
Harlequins, Cardiff Blues, Gloucester, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, Newcastle Falcons, the Dragons and Northampton Saints will compete in the Premiership Rugby 7s Final.