Despite battling for an hour with only 14 men, Newcastle Falcons recorded a losing bonus point at home to Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.
Forced to play a man down following Callum Chick’s red card, it took a Joe Simmonds penalty three minutes from time to deny the Falcons what would have been a remarkable victory, in a performance brimming with passion and defensive zeal.
Gale-force winds and driving rain made handling the ball a virtual impossibility during the early exchanges, with repeated high bombs causing problems for both back threes.
Newcastle were forced into a huge spell of defensive discipline as Exeter earned three red-zone penalties, setting about a close-range barrage which the wall of black repelled.
The fierce cross-winds were causing carnage under the high bomb, but it was Newcastle who eventually grabbed the first points of the day when Will Haydon-Wood raced 80 metres on the intercept.
Outpacing fellow Sedbergh old boy Josh Hodge to claim the score, he composed himself to add the extra two despite the horrific goal-kicking conditions.
The Falcons’ cause was damaged, however, just two minutes later when captain Callum Chick was red-carded for a high tackle, his forward pack repelling another close-range Exeter maul as the visitors kicked a penalty to the corner without return.
Newcastle held out gamely under repeated pressure, but finally conceded their first points on 36 minutes when prop Patrick Schickerling scored from a line-out drive in the left corner.
Joe Simmonds’ conversion levelled things up at 7-7, a score-line which still stood at the interval with neither side able to find further first-half points.
The Chiefs took the lead for the first time four minutes after the resumption when they kicked a penalty to the right corner – hooker Jack Innard being driven over for an unconverted try from the resulting maul.
But the 14 men of Newcastle had no intention of lying down, snatching back the advantage when George McGuigan hit a crash-ball line to score in the left corner following enterprising build-up play from Matias Orlando, Haydon-Wood and George Wacokecoke.
Haydon-Wood converted well from the left-hand side, his side showing equal energy in defence as Connor Collett and Will Montgomery combined to produce a crucial jackal penalty on their own 22.
Greg Peterson continued the collective effort with a massive tackle on his own 22, the Kingston Park faithful relishing every bone-crunching hit.
But the wind was taken out of their sails three minutes from time when Simmonds slotted the winning penalty from the 22, leaving the Falcons with the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Mike Brown (Adam Radwan, 70), 14 Tom Penny, 13 George Wacokecoke, 12 Matias Orlando, 11 Nathan Earle (Will Montgomery, 44), 10 Will Haydon-Wood, 9 Cameron Nordli-Kelemeti (Joel Hodgson, 74); 1 Adam Brocklebank, 2 George McGuigan (Jamie Blamire, 63), 3 Trevor Davison (Mark Tampin, 63), 4 Greg Peterson, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Josh Basham, 7 Connor Collett, 8 Callum Chick (captain).
Scorers – Tries: Will Haydon-Wood, George McGuigan. Conversions: Will Haydon-Wood 2.
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Josh Hodge (Facundo Cordero, 40), 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Ian Whitten, 12 Tom Hendrickson, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds (captain), 9 Sam Maunder (Jack Maunder, 66); 1 Alec Hepburn (Ben Moon, 60), 2 Jack Innard (Jack Yeandle, 60), 3 Patrick Schickerling (Marcus Street, 60), 4 Jannes Kirsten (Lewis Pearson, 41), 5 Dafydd Jenkins (Santiago Grondona, 70), 6 Sam Skinner, 7 Don Armand, 8 Richard Capstick.
Scorers – Tries: Patrick Schickerling, Jack Innard. Conversions: Joe Simmonds. Penalties: Joe Simmonds.
Referee: Christophe Ridley. Attendance: 6,205.
Brown, Penny, Wacokecoke, Orlando, Earle, Haydon-Wood, Nordli-Kelemeti, Brocklebank, McGuigan, Davison, Peterson, Robinson, Basham, Collett, Chick
Replacements Blamire, Cade, Tampin, Farrar, Montgomery, Hodgson, Burrell, Radwan
Hodge, Woodburn, Whitten, Hendrickson, O'Flaherty, Simmonds, Maunder, Hepburn, Innard, Schickerling, Kirsten, Jenkins, Skinner, Armand, Capstick
Replacements Yeandle, Moon, Street, Pearson, Grondona, Maunder, Skinner, Cordero
referee: Christophe Ridley
assistant: Daniel Jones
assistant: Wayne Falla
TMO: Claire Hodnett