Newcastle Falcons ended their Aviva Premiership season with defeat against Exeter Chiefs at Kingston Park in front of England head coach Stuart Lancaster who was casting his eye over proceedings.
Enduring a tough season and securing their survival last weekend, Falcons boss Dean Richards will be keen to regroup in pre-season ahead of a return to Premiership action in September. With eight new signings already unveiled in the North East including the Tuilagi brothers, the northeasterners are making big strides to becoming a force to be reckoned with despite a disappointing run of 16 straight league defeats this campaign.
And with the likes of Sinoti Sinoti in their ranks, who was unplayable at times on Saturday, Newcastle have an exciting future to look forward to.
For Exeter, the victory clinched eighth place as they continue to blossom with their fourth successive season in English rugby’s top-flight.
The Falcons began the contest strongly with two Joel Hodgson penalties giving the hosts a 6-0 lead inside the first seven minutes. Rain lashing down on Tyneside in similar fashion to the opening weekend match at home to Bath last September, Richards’ men were in the groove in attack and deserved the early advantage.
However, on 10 minutes Exeter powered their way over the line through Luke Cowan-Dickie who added the finishing touches to a rolling maul. Henry Slade was unable to add the extras and Newcastle still had the initiative at 6-5.
Newcastle could have gone behind moments later when Chiefs scrum-half Dave Lewis scooted 40 metres up-field only for Hodgson to haul the nippy No.9 down just short of the line.
A Slade penalty just short of the half hour mark coupled with a Ben White try on the stroke of half-time put the visitors 15-6 ahead going into the break.
With barely two minutes on the clock in the second period, Sinoti thought he was in the clear for a try on the far side as he battered his way through three would-be tacklers to cross the whitewash. The decisive pass from Alex Tait was adjudged to have gone forward and Exeter survived.
On 58 minutes Slade extended the margin to 18-6 with the game now becoming a stop-start affair with a series of knock-ons, penalties and blood bins.
The impressive Sinoti was a real pest with ball in hand, crashing through Exeter’s rear-guard at will, and six minutes from time the Samoan flyer was bundled into touch just short of the line after a neat pass from Lee Smith.
Exeter wrapped things up in the 79th minute thanks to Fetu’u Vainikolo’s touchdown, but the Falcons gave their fans something to cheer with Mark Wilson bullocking his way to the line with the last act of the game. Godman slotted home the extras to end the game 23-13 in favour of the Chiefs.