Newcastle Falcons have moved up to eighth in the Aviva Premiership table, two points behind sixth placed Harlequins after a nail-biting 13-11 triumph over London Irish at Kingston Park.
An Adam Powell try 15 minutes from time was enough to seal a precious four points for the Falcons, who now gear up for next weekend’s trip to high-flying Saracens.
However, it could have been a different story had Ian Humphrey’s penalty with the last kick of the game been successful. Instead, a gust of wind dislodged the ball from the kicking tee, and unable to regain his composure, the fly-half sliced his attempt just short of the sticks.
Rory Clegg had the chance to open up the scoring for Newcastle on nine minutes with a penalty to the left of the uprights, but the summer signing from Quins was unable to deal with the swirling wind as his attempt flew wide of the far post. Clegg was made to pay three minutes later when some slick handling in the Exiles’ backline gave flanker Ofisa Treviranus an easy run to the line. Humphreys failed with the conversion and the visitors held the upper hand at 5-0.
Midway through the first period Clegg made amends for his earlier miss, this time slotting home from similar range after a high shot on Mike Blair. Powell’s scintillating line break gave the northeasterners the impetus with referee Greg Garner awarding the penalty in the subsequent phase.
Dean Richards’ men were growing into this most physical of contests on a cool autumn afternoon with the likes of Carlo del Fava, Dom Barrow and man-of-the-match Mark Wilson carting the ball up strongly. And on the half hour mark Newcastle went in front courtesy of a Clegg penalty following another high tackle. Centre Powell was the victim of a heavy blow from Irish back-row Chris Hala’uifa.
As half-time approached it was evident that Irish were getting over the gain line effectively with No.10 Humphreys orchestrating affairs. A minute before the break Irish thought they had driven the ball over the line, only for a flurry of Falcons defenders coming to the rescue to hold up the Irish attacker. Referee Mr Garner went back for an earlier infringement, and Humphreys converted a simple penalty from in front of goal to leave the Falcons trailing 8-6 at the interval.
Both sides missed a penalty apiece in the early stages of the second-half with Humphreys and Clegg unable to contend with the wind. The Londoners extended their advantage to 11-6 when Humphreys smashed home a penalty from an acute angle after the Falcons were penalised at the lineout.
Newcastle responded to the early set-back in positive fashion, and went close to crossing the line just short of the hour mark. Edging closer to the Irish line with the Falcons heavies trundling the ball up, the ball was soon switched to the near side to winger Tom Catterick, but a knock-on thwarted any chance of a try.
Persistent in attack, the Falcons charged towards line once more two minutes later, this time the Tyneside outfit got their reward. With the South Stand sucking the ball towards the line, and after a series of drives, the ball was switched to Powell who skipped in under the posts to touchdown. Replacement fly-half Phil Godman took over the kicking duties to add the extras, and the Falcons were 13-11 ahead to set-up a tense finale.
And with two minutes remaining, and the Falcons holding on for dear life, the Falcons’ worst fears were realised when Irish were awarded a penalty within kicking range. Replacement fly-half Shane Geraghty stepped up to the mark, only for a gust of wind to dramatically move the ball off the kicking tee. Rushing his kick, Geraghty failed to get enough purchase on his attempt and the ball fell short of the posts with Ally Hogg touching the ball dead in-goal to spark scenes of jubilation both on the field as well as on the terraces.
Tait, Catterick, Barnes, Powell, Shortland, Clegg, Blair, Vickers, Lawson, Tomaszczyk, Del Fava, McKenzie, Barrow, Wilson, Hogg
Replacements McGuigan, Shiels, Brookes, MacLeod, Welch, Fury, Godman, Fitzpatrick
Ojo, Lewington, Mulchrone, Sheridan, Tagicakibau, Humphreys, O'Leary, Yapp, Paice, Halavatau, Gough, Evans, Cowan, Treviranus, Hala'ufia
Replacements Mayhew, Parr, Hagan, Danaher, Sinclair, Armitage, Geraghty, Allinson
referee: Greg Garner