Director of rugby Dean Richards praised his Newcastle Falcons battlers as they held their nerve to record a 23-20 triumph at Worcester Warriors on Saturday.
The Gallagher Premiership victory was their first at Sixways since October 2013, Newcastle going 14-0 up but having to withstand a Warriors rally, playing with two men in the sin bin either side of half time.
“Our record down at Worcester in recent seasons hasn’t been great, and we knew it was going to be tough,” said Richards.
“It was about controlling things, whether that be territory, possession or whatever.
“We put ourselves under a huge amount of pressure at the end of that first half by allowing them into our own 22 and getting two guys in the sin bin, which allowed them to score two tries.
“The good thing was that we held it together mentally after that period, we bounced back and when it became a bit of a dogfight we closed it out.”
Showing mental and physical fortitude to take home the points, the Falcons boss added: “At half time and with only 13 men on the field we challenged the boys to score, and we got a very important three points right at the start of the second half.
“That really pleased me because we showed we weren’t going to be bullied even at two men down, and I thought the boys were outstanding in that respect. We put in big hit after big hit at crucial times, and Worcester found it difficult to string possession together because of the intensity with which we defended. We knew what Worcester were about, we knew it would be physical and we met that challenge.”
Taking the penalty try and sin-binning of Johnny Williams in his stride after a debatable decision to award a deliberate knock-on, Richards said: “Wayne Barnes in my mind is the best referee in the world, and if he says it’s a yellow card and a penalty try then you have to bow to his judgement.
“You’ll see 10 or 15 of those a weekend and probably half will be given, and half not, but Wayne is a top referee and he’s paid to make those calls. I’m not going to argue about it.”
Summing up the day, the former England and Lions No 8 said: “We were pleased with the way we started but we always knew Worcester would come back into it, because they’re a good side.
“We were left in a bit of strife at two men down but we battled on, and that was the key time for us. We didn’t panic even when we shipped the two tries, and that really does say a lot about our character. We stood firm, and we moved on from that spell.
“It probably wasn’t the greatest game, truth be told, and it was disappointing that it became a bit of a dogfight. But to come away and win anywhere in this league is not easy, especially when we’ve not won here in five years.”
Newcastle Falcons are next in action on Friday night when Exeter Chiefs visit Kingston Park Stadium. Click here to book your tickets.