Grit, determination and courage won the day for Newcastle Falcons as Dean Richards’ men pulled off a memorable Aviva Premiership victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Registering their first points of the campaign thanks to the boot of Phil Godman and Rory Clegg respectively, the Falcons can now look forward to next week’s challenge away at Leicester Tigers.
Sale began the contest strongly with a barrage of attacks getting them to within 10 metres of the Falcons’ try line. Threatening to breach Newcastle’s defensive line, Sale were unable to capitalise on their early foray into the Falcons’ half.
Despite standing firm to Sale’s offensive march though, the Falcons conceded a second minute penalty to give Nick MacLeod the opportunity to register the first score of the game. However, the fly-half fired against the inside of the far post, and the Falcons were let off the hook.
MacLeod made amends two minutes later, slotting home from directly in front of goal to give his side the upper hand at 3-0.
Phil Godman levelled the score midway through the first-half with a penalty 35 metres out to the delight of the travelling contingent stationed behind the posts. Referee J.P. Doyle awarded the penalty after great work by the Falcons heavies, and Godman kept his nerve to land the three points.
MacLeod nudged the Sharks back in front on 34 minutes with his second penalty success of the evening, before the Falcons’ task was made more difficult when Dom Barrow was sin-binned for an infringement at the maul. From the resulting scrum, skipper Dan Braid hit the ball up on the blindside, before squeezing in at the corner to touchdown. MacLeod pushed the conversion across the face of goal and the northeasterners trailed 11-3.
Five minutes from the break the Falcons narrowed the gap to 11-9 by virtue of two quick-fire Godman penalties. It was no more than the Falcons deserved for their industry in the pack with Franck Montanella and Oliver Tomaszczyk causing problems upfront. The two penalties before the half-time team talk would prove crucial.
Newcastle came out for the second-half in positive fashion, and with 43 minutes on the clock the impeccable boot of Godman gave his side a slender 12-11 advantage. The Falcons lead could have been short-lived had MacLeod not skewed his penalty wide of the mark moments later.
On 58 minutes Montanella was penalised for hands in at the ruck, and this time MacLeod converted to edge Steve Diamond’s side 14-12 ahead.
Rory Clegg replaced Godman with a quarter-of-an-hour left and the Falcons academy product wasted no time in introducing himself back on the big stage with a pressure penalty to make it 15-14 to the Falcons to set up a frantic finale.
Sale had chances to launch a series of attacks late on, but they were thwarted by an aggressive, textbook defensive line which would have delighted defence coach Graham Steadman. With 80 minutes up, Sale continued to believe they could save the game, but despite numerous phases the Falcons held on to claim a crucial away triumph.
Arscott, MacKenzie, Cueto, Forsyth, Brady, MacLeod, Peel, Roberts, Jones, Thomas, Mills, Paterson, Braid, Seymour, Gaskell
Replacements Taylor, Harrison, Cobilas, Kulemin, Beaumont, Cliff, Ford, Miller
Tait, Cato, Barnes, Powell, Catterick, Godman, Blair, Montanella, Thompson, Tomaszczyk, McKenzie, MacLeod, Barrow, Welch, Hogg
Replacements Vickers, Brookes, Wilson, Del Fava, Wilson, Fury, Clegg, Fitzpatrick
referee: Luke Pearce
assistant: Andy Watson
assistant: Stuart Terheege
TMO: Sean Davey