Newcastle Falcons had to dig deep to maintain their unbeaten start to the season on Saturday, withstanding a full-blooded effort from Ealing Trailfinders to claim a precious five points at Vallis Way.
Leading 14-9 at the interval and defending for their lives, the visitors extended their lead at the top of the Championship after an energy-sapping 80 minutes.
The visitors missed the chance to draw first blood when a scrum penalty in their favour brought a line-out in the right corner, Ealing pinching possession at the set-piece to avert the danger.
Neither side was looking to take any risks in a cagey opening which placed territorial supremacy high on the priority list, Newcastle turning over an Ealing maul when the home side kicked a penalty to the left corner for no return.
It was the visitors who eventually broke the deadlock on 16 minutes but it came from an Ealing attack, Josh Matavesi poaching an interception inside his own 22 and showing a fair turn of pace to hare 80-metres plus to the opposition line.
Toby Flood added the simple conversion, and was doing so again just four minutes later when Sonatane Takulua’s short ball on half-way found Adam Radwan at speed, the winger hitting a diagonal line and burning past the last man to score.
Matavesi’s injury-enforced withdrawal brought a back-line reshuffle for the last hour as Joel Hodgson came on at fly-half and Flood pushed out to centre, Ealing getting themselves off the mark on 33 minutes when Steven Shingler slotted a simple close-range penalty.
Newcastle lost Will Welch to the sin bin just before the break, and the Trailfinders made their numerical supremacy count when Shingler chipped over a second penalty from in front in added time.
The fly-half added a third penalty with a long-range effort in the final play of the half, cutting the Falcons’ interval lead to 14-9, and Ealing thought they had drawn level five minutes after the restart until Reon Joseph’s claim for a try was turned down by the video referee.
Newcastle went close to a third try when Radwan was fed down the right after quick hands on the short-side, only for a heroic last-man tackle to deny him.
Flood then pulled a penalty wide of the target from out on the left as the hour mark ticked by with no further score, but his side’s defence was holding firm as Will Welch won a huge jackal turnover penalty near his own try-line.
Newcastle grew into the game in the closing quarter, and got their reward with a penalty try when Ealing full-back Tommy Bell deliberately knocked on. He saw yellow for his troubles, but his side hit back with a try from a kick ahead when Rayn Smid grounded from a kick ahead.
Gary Graham bagged a bonus point with a poacher's score in the dying embers, diving on a loose ball in the left corner
The Falcons closed out what remained of the game, however, keeping their promotion train on the rails as they steam into the new year.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Adam Radwan, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Josh Matavesi (Joel Hodgson, 25), 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood (Ben Stevenson, 69), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Michael Young, 68); 1 Sam Lockwood (Trevor Davison, 40), 2 George McGuigan (captain, Jamie Blamire, 77), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (Mark Tampin, 56), 4 Darren Barry (Greg Peterson, 78), 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Will Welch (Callum Chick, 77), 7 John Hardie, 8 Gary Graham.
Falcons scorers – Tries: Josh Matavesi, Adam Radwan, Penalty try, Gary Graham. Conversions: Toby Flood 2.
Ealing Trailfinders: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 James Cordy Redden, 13 David Johnston, 12 Harry Sloan (Craig Willis, 65), 11 Reon Joseph, 10 Steven Shingler, 9 Craig Hampson; 1 Jordan Els, 2 Alun Walker (Matthew Cornish, 55), 3 Craig Trenier (Elliott Millar-Mills, 35), 4 Dave McKern, 5 Harry Casson (Sam Dickinson, 68), 6 Jordy Reid, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 8 Rayn Smid (captain).
Ealing scorers – Tries: Rayn Smid. Penalties: Steven Shingler 3.
Referee: Adam Leal.