Newcastle Falcons could only muster a losing bonus-point against struggling Worcester Warriors at Kingston Park on Sunday afternoon.
Reducing the gap down to nine points at the foot of the table, Dean Ryan’s men breathed new life into their faint survival hopes.
Worcester and Newcastle resume Aviva Premiership action in a fortnight, with Worcester hosting Exeter Chiefs, while Newcastle travel to London Irish.
From the outset the magnitude of the occasion seemed to be weighing on both sets of players’ minds. Clear-cut chances were at a premium as neither side showed ambition in attack on a foggy day on Tyneside.
Phil Godman fired the hosts into a third minute lead courtesy of the boot after Worcester were penalised for interference at the breakdown. However, six minutes later Chris Pennell levelled the scores with an excellent penalty from the half-way line, before the talented full-back repeated the trick moments later to give his side the advantage at 6-3.
In typical fashion the Falcons forwards were demonstrating their supremacy at the scrum, and their endeavour in the pack was rewarded when referee Tim Wigglesworth awarded a penalty directly in front of goal. Godman made no mistake to restore parity with just over 10 minutes left of the first period. Six minutes from the interval Godman kicked Newcastle into a slender 9-6 lead, his third penalty success of the afternoon. The visitors should have gone into half-time on level terms had fly-half Ryan Lamb not shanked his penalty against the far post from all of 25 metres.
Exciting young hooker George McGuigan replaced Scott Lawson at the break, and the Ireland Under-20 injected some zip into the Falcons’ play, breaking the line at full tilt with his first touch of the game thanks to a neat flat pass from scrum-half Warren Fury. Making hard yards up-front, Dean Richards’ unit earned a penalty on 47 minutes which Godman again duly obliged with.
12-9 up with just under 15 minutes of the second half played, Newcastle failed to kick-on and a Lamb penalty coupled with a 71st minute Josh Drauniniu penalty put the Warriors in the ascendancy. Andy Symons broke through a gap before offloading to Fijian winger Drauniniu who raced in at the corner. Lamb was unable to convert with the touchline conversion and Worcester had the upper hand at 17-12 going into the final stages of the game. With time very much of the essence, the majority of the Kingston Park crowd spurred on the Falcons as they went in search of a dramatic score. However, a resolute defensive display from the Warriors forced the Falcons to take a gamble with ball in hand, with knock-ons killing any real momentum in attack. Carries from the likes of James Fitzpatrick, Sinoti Sinoti and Fraser McKenzie threatened to open up Worcester’s rear-guard with the clock ticking down. Samoan international Sinoti underlined his explosive attacking game with a series of bursts, one of the plus points of the afternoon.
But Worcester managed to see out the dying embers of the contest to record their first win in 13 months, while it is 12 straight defeats for Newcastle, who will be looking to finish the campaign on a high.
Tait, Catterick, Tiesi, Barnes, Sinoti, Godman, Fury, Vickers, Lawson, Tomaszczyk, MacLeod, McKenzie, Wilson, Saull, York
Replacements McGuigan, Strain, Wilson, Tomes, Mayhew, Pilgrim, Hodgson, Fitzpatrick
Pennell, Drauniniu, Grove, Fatiaki, Stelling, Lamb, Arr, Fainga'anuku, Creevy, O'Donnell, Percival, Galarza, Williams, Betty, Thomas
Replacements Shervington, Andrew, Schuster, Taulava, De Carpentier, Hodgson, Mieres, Symons
referee: Tim Wigglesworth