Newcastle Falcons snatched two precious Aviva Premiership points at Gloucester Rugby thanks to four late tries.
Trailing 37-7 with an hour played, tries from George McGuigan, Andy Saull, Alex Tait and Noah Cato stunned the Kingsholm faithful and salvaged the unlikely, to give Dean Richards’ men a 12 point cushion over bottom of the table Worcester Warriors.
The Warriors visit Kingston Park a week tomorrow following the heart-break of Friday’s last gasp defeat at the hands of London Wasps. Picking up the try bonus point and a point for being within seven points of their West Country counterparts, Newcastle got their just reward for their never say die attitude.
Gloucester made a blistering start to proceedings and underlined their attacking intent from the word go as they looked to utilise the pace of Charlie Sharples and Martyn Thomas on either wing. Defending resolutely, the Falcons managed to keep the the Cherry and Whites at bay to ensure that there was no early score. Ex-Falcons skipper James Hudson bombed the pick of the chances, throwing a wayward pass into touch with a two-man overlap on the nearside.
Phil Godman had the opportunity to punish the hosts for their inability to convert their pressure into points when referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty for an infringement at the ruck. However, the Falcons No.10 skewed his kick wide from all of 20 metres out and the score remained 0-0.
A minute later Premiership debutant Zach Kibirige had a try chalked off by Mr Barnes for obstruction, before Gloucester motored up to the other end of the field to register the first points of the contest. The TMO deemed flanker Sione Kalamafoni to have touched down after the former Nottingham man crashed over from close-range. Rob Cook converted from an acute angle to give Nigel Davies’ side the advantage at 7-0.
Newcastle began to show some purpose in attack and were back on level terms on 24 minutes when the impressive Chris York eased in at the corner courtesy of a looping pass from Godman with numbers on the right. The Scotland international nailed the extras from the touchline to make it seven apiece.
However, with the half-hour mark looming Gloucester went back in front through Cook who scooted in for a well-worked try after excellent handling from winger Sharples. Cook converted his own score for a 14-7 lead.
Will Welch made way for Richard Mayhew 10 minutes from the break, with the Falcons skipper colliding with his opposite number. After Gloucester extended the gap to 17-7 by virtue of a Cook penalty, the 13,000 plus crowd had to witness the unpleasant sight of Kibirige being stretchered off the field with what appeared to be a leg injury. Former Leeds Rhino Lee Smith came on for the promising teenager.
17-7 behind going into the interval, the Falcons made a sluggish start to the second period as they conceded further points in the shape of tries from Mike Tindall, Jonny May and former Kingston Park favourite Hudson.
After a Cook penalty on 43 minutes, Hudson came back to haunt the northeasterners by charging down Mike Blair’s box-kick to cross the line. Cook converted to take the score to 27-7 before Tindall raced in for the try bonus point moments later. Fresh from his exploits in the Six Nations, England international May then crossed with his first touch of the match to add gloss to the scoreline.
The introduction of Warren Fury, Scott Wilson and exciting young hooker McGuigan seemed to inject more urgency and penetration with ball in hand going into the latter stages of the affair. McGuigan drove himself over the line thanks to York’s neat offload and the Ireland Under-20 did the rest. Hodgson converted to reduce the deficit to 37-14.
On 66 minutes Fury went close to earning his side a third try, knocking on within a whisker of the whitewash following an emphatic 80 metre counter-attack. Against the head, Newcastle won the penalty at the resulting scrum, and after a well-executed lineout, the Falcons heavies exerted their dominance with former Saracens man Saull adding the final touches to an effective rolling maul. Hodgson continued his fine goal-kicking with a conversion out wide and the score was now 37-19 in favour of Gloucester.
Knowing one more score would seal the try bonus point, Newcastle continued their resurgence in attack. Matt Kvesic was yellow-carded for interference at the ruck with less than 10 minutes left to give the visitors the man advantage. Kicking into the corner with the penalty, Newcastle won clean ball at the lineout before the ball was swung wide to the near side for Tait to sprint in for the try bonus point. A Cook penalty made it 40-26 soon after, but a dramatic try from Cato with the last act of the game coupled with Hodgson’s pressure touchline conversion, meant the Falcons left the West Country with two valuable points.
Tickets for the Worcester Warriors match on Sunday 30 March are still available by calling the Falcons Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060 or click here to purchase online.
Cook, Sharples, Trinder, Tindall, Thomas, Mills, Robson, Wood, Dawidiuk, Knight, Stooke, Hudson, Kalamafoni, Kvesic, Evans
Replacements Edmonds, Murphy, Puafisi, James, Morgan, Cowan, Burns, May
Tait, Cato, Tiesi, Barnes, Kibirige, Godman, Blair, Vickers, Lawson, Tomaszczyk, MacLeod, McKenzie, Welch, Saull, York
Replacements McGuigan, Strain, Wilson, Tomes, Mayhew, Fury, Hodgson, Smith
referee: Wayne Barnes