Director of rugby Dean Richards hailed the battling qualities of his side as Newcastle Falcons ground out an 11-10 Aviva Premiership victory over Harlequins at Kingston Park Stadium on Saturday.
The England and Lions great, himself a former Quins boss, said afterwards: “I love Christmas games, I don’t think anyone left until the final whistle and why on Earth would you?
“It was testament to the quality and intensity of the game that people stayed until the very end, and it was a good one to come through. It wasn’t far off a full house, we’re very thankful to all the supporters who came and cheered us on and the atmosphere was brilliant.”
Richards added: “It was the classic game of two halves, in a way. We went 11-0 up and probably could have had a couple more tries, so it was disappointing not to convert those, but at the same time Quins are a good side and we always knew they were going to come back at us.
“Quins tried to attack us in a slightly different way during the second half, going through the guts, but we adjusted and just got on with it. Provided you don’t give away penalties while they’re doing that you’re fine, but we did have to work hard.”
Crediting his side for withstanding the elements and some sustained Harlequins attack, the director of rugby said: “It was very windy out there, and perhaps that didn’t come through to everyone in the stands.
“It was tough for the players but it was a typical Kingston Park wind, and Quins kicked a bit better during the second half.”
Heading to London Irish on December 30 before hosting Exeter on Sunday January 7, Richards added: “We said to the lads going into this Christmas period that there were games to be won, and let’s go out there and win them.
“We’ll have a look at the table on January 7, not before, and if we win two out of the three I’ll be reasonably happy. One of the three I’ll be miserable, and three I’ll be delighted, but for the time being I’m fairly satisfied with how we came through.
“We’ve won four games in a row now, and some people were writing us off a month or two ago following a few defeats in the league. A few other sides have lost a lot more than that but it’s just the way the season goes in a competition as strong as this, and you have peaks and troughs.
“We’ve still got to go through the footage of this game and learn what we can from it, then it’s on to London Irish on Saturday. We’ll see why we couldn’t score the tries we probably should have and why we couldn’t capitalise on the wind during the second half, but there’s a good feeling in the camp as we move on to the next job.”
Keen to praise skipper Mark Wilson on the day he reached a double century of appearances, Richards said: “It’s a great achievement for Mark to reach 200 senior games while he’s only 28 years old, and he’s an incredible guy.
“I wish there are a few more Mark Wilsons knocking about because he’s so important to us, he is incredibly durable and plays at a high level week in, week out. He never turns in a poor performance and it’s great for him to reach that milestone.”