Newcastle Falcons had to make do with a losing bonus point on an afternoon of high drama at Kingston Park as a late touchline penalty from Billy Twelvetrees proved the difference.
In front of a season-high home crowd of 9,042 Newcastle trailed 10-6 at half-time, Gloucester opening the scoring on five minutes with a well-struck Twelvetrees penalty. The centre smashed it through after Newcastle were blown for going off their feet at a defensive ruck in a central position 40 metres out.
The Falcons almost found their first points when a super touchfinder from Flood on halfway handed his team a line-out in the left corner, a monumental home drive being shunted into touch just the wrong side of the corner post.
A five-metre scrum and the resulting pressure delivered a penalty which Sonatane Takulua slotted through on 16 minutes to draw the teams level, the Tongan’s superb box-kicking causing repeated problems for the Gloucester back three as Newcastle’s kick-chase ensured they received man and ball.
The Falcons earned prime field position when fit-again centre Josh Matavesi drilled a kick to the right corner which was duly knocked on by Ben Morgan, and they eventually converted it into a 6-3 lead when Takulua’s penalty from the 22 left of centre punished some back-row offside during a period of sustained home pressure.
Just when it looked like the Falcons would preserve their advantage until the interval the visitors struck with the very last play of the half, kicking a penalty to the right corner and scoring through captain Ed Slater after a period of pick-and-go near the posts saw the ball whipped out to the second rower at first receiver to crash over.
Twelvetrees converted to give Gloucester a 10-6 half-time advantage but Newcastle flew out of the blocks in the second period, registering a superb counter-attack try in the left corner as Simon Hammersley fed Takulua, who in turn sent Vereniki Goneva in for a run-in on a textbook two-on-one.
That left the Falcons one point in front, Takulua extending that to four on 53 minutes with a penalty from in front after a period of red-zone pressure, Logovi’i Mulipola helping get them into the right area with a crowd-pleasing line-break from deep inside his own half.
Takulua’s fourth penalty from further out just before the hour mark extended the lead to seven, but the Cherry and Whites drew level when a period of persistent pick-and-go to the left of the Newcastle posts ended with Ben Morgan wriggling over, Twelvetrees adding the extras.
Twelvetrees put his side three up with six minutes to play when he sent over an impressive penalty from the right touchline, which in the end proved to be the decisive kick as Newcastle were forced to make do with a losing bonus point.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Josh Matavesi (Tom Arscott, 72), 11 Alex Tait, 10 Toby Flood (captain), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Michael Young, 65); 1 Sam Lockwood (Trevor Davison, 40), 2 Kyle Cooper (George McGuigan, 61), 3 Logovi'i Mulipola (David Wilson, 65), 4 Calum Green, 5 Tevita Cavubati, 6 Gary Graham (Ryan Burrows, 78), 7 John Hardie, 8 Mark Wilson.
Falcons scorers - Tries: Vereniki Goneva. Penalties: Sonatane Takulua 4.
Gloucester: 15 Jason Woodward (Henry Trinder, 48), 14 Charlie Sharples (Callum Braley, 72), 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Tom Hudson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Callum Braley (Willi Heinz, 63); 1 Josh Hohneck (Paddy McAllister, 63), 2 Jaco Visagie (Henry Walker, 78), 3 Ciaran Knight (Fraser Balmain, 63), 4 Ed Slater (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Freddie Clarke, 7 Lewis Ludlow (Gareth Evans, 63), 8 Ben Morgan (Jaco Kriel, 68).
Gloucester scorers - Tries: Ed Slater, Ben Morgan. Conversions: Billy Twelvetrees 2. Penalties: Billy Twelvetrees 2.
Referee: Karl Dickson. Attendance: 9,042.
Hammersley, Tait, Harris, Matavesi, Goneva, Flood, Takulua, Lockwood, Cooper, Mulipola, Green, Cavubati, Graham, Hardie, Wilson
Replacements McGuigan, Davison, Wilson, Davidson, Burrows, Young, Connon, Arscott
Woodward, Sharples, Twelvetrees, Hudson, Thorley, Williams, Braley, Hohneck, Visagie, Knight, Slater, Mostert, Clarke, Ludlow, Morgan
Replacements Walker, McAllister, Balmain, Savage, Evans, Heinz, Trinder, Kriel
referee: Karl Dickson
assistant: Hamish Smales
assistant: Phil Watters
TMO: Sean Davey