Newcastle Falcons’ wait for a first win at Sandy Park continues after Gallagher Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs claimed the full five points on Saturday.
Building on a 21-7 half-time lead, the home side flexed their muscles after the interval to record their 12th consecutive home win over the North Easterners.
Dean Richards’ men had repelled Exeter’s first scoring opportunity just four minutes in when Andrew Davidson leapt high at the front of a line-out near his own line to steal the Chiefs’ throw-in, the home side having kicked a penalty to the corner following an earlier maul collapse.
Centre Johnny Williams, making his return after two months out with a knee injury, was among the early ball-carriers, but the visitors trailed on eight minutes when full-back Santiago Cordero collected an inside offload from Alex Cuthbert down the right and jinked off his right foot to score a converted try between the posts.
An ambitious Newcastle side kept at it and had a sniff of a score when Sinoti Sinoti’s penetrating run took him from halfway to the 22, only for his attempted offload to go to ground.
But he home side doubled their lead on 17 minutes, a period of heroic goal-line defence from Newcastle eventually seeing hooker Jack Yeandle cross from first receiver as a five-metre scrum was worked left.
Steenson added the conversion, but the Falcons halved Exeter’s lead on 20 minutes when Sonatane Takulua’s supporting run saw the Tongan scrum-half collecting an offload from Sinoti, who had powered his way from the 22 to within a sniff of the try-line.
Toby Flood converted from in front, the Chiefs denied a third try for double movement in the left corner but finding themselves a man to the good when Zach Kibirige was sin-binned on 25 minutes.
They immediately exploited that advantage by kicking the ball out for a line-out and scoring from the resulting phases, wing Olly Woodburn diving into the left corner previously occupied by the absent Kibirige.
Steenson slotted the touchline conversion to re-establish the Chiefs’ 21-7 lead, a margin which stood in tact at the interval as Newcastle kicked a penalty to the left corner but failed to convert the line-out into points.
It was Exeter who drew first blood in the second half when scrum-half Nic White sniped in from the fringes of a close-range ruck down the left to claim the bonus point, Steenson adding the conversion.
But the Falcons hit back with a super try when Kibirige collected a back-hand offload from Chris Harris, the winger weaving his way to the right corner with pace and balance for his fifth touchdown against the Chiefs this season.
The home side responded with a trademark patient pick-and-go try in the right corner from Greg Holmes, again converted by Steenson, Kibirige racing 70 metres down the left for Newcastle's third try one minute from time as they at least ended the day on a high note.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley (Tim Swiel, 65), 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Chris Harris (Ben Stevenson, 65), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua (Sam Stuart, 58); 1 Sam Lockwood, 2 George McGuigan (Santiago Socino, 65), 3 David Wilson (Jack Payne, 9, Logovi’I Mulipola, 22), 4 Calum Green (Will Witty, 65), 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Will Welch (captain), 7 John Hardie, 8 Callum Chick (Nemani Nagusa, 50).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Sonatane Takulua, Zach Kibirige 2. Conversions: Toby Flood.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Ian Whitten (Sam Hill, 69), 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Olly Woodburn (Joe Simmonds, 69), 10 Gareth Steenson, 9 Nic White (Jack Maunder, 63); 1 Alec Hepburn (Billy Keast, 65), 2 Jack Yeandle (captain, Jack Innard, 58), 3 Greg Holmes (Marcus Street, 65), 4 Dave Dennis, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Dave Ewers (Sean Lonsdale, 55), 7 Don Armand, 8 Matt Kvesic.
Chiefs scorers - Tries: Santiago Cordero, Jack Yeandle, Olly Woodburn, Nic White, Greg Holmes. Conversions: Gareth Steenson 5.
Referee: Luke Pearce. Attendance: 12,713.
Cordero, Cuthbert, Whitten, Devoto, Woodburn, Steenson, White, Hepburn, Yeandle, Holmes, Dennis, Hill, Ewers, Armand, Kvesic
Replacements Innard, Keast, Street, Lees, Lonsdale, Maunder, Simmonds, Hill
Hammersley, Kibirige, Harris, Williams, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Lockwood, McGuigan, Wilson, Green, Davidson, Welch, Hardie, Chick
Replacements Socino, Mulipola, Payne, Witty, Nagusa, Stuart, Swiel, Stevenson
referee: Luke Pearce
assistant: Anthony Woodthorpe
assistant: Phil Watters
TMO: Geoff Warren