Director of rugby Dean Richards hailed Newcastle Falcons’ defensive resolve as they withstood a fierce second-half onslaught to beat Aviva Premiership champions Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.
Leading 25-3 at half-time, they were tested to the limit in front of a vocal home crowd at Kingston Park Stadium, holding their shape enough to claim a 28-20 victory, their sixth in a row.
Speaking after the game, Richards said: “Our defence was outstanding on the day, we got tested to the full and we had enough there to seal the result.
“Exeter play from anywhere and they have the ability to hurt teams, as they showed. I was delighted with how we stood up to that, and the boys stuck at it. The changing room was quietly lively, and rightly so.
"The first half was superb, the second half we dogged it out and I thought the boys were magnificent, they just never gave up and put their bodies on the line time and time again.
"Exeter are a quality side, and the bonus for us was to be able knock them back time and time again."
Coping with a barrage of injuries to key men, the Falcons boss said: “They’re all OK. Gary Graham just landed on his hip, then Toby Flood and Will Welch both failed head injury assessments. The great thing was that the boys reacted accordingly, the players who came on did well and it was a very good day for us.
“I thought we should have been awarded a few more penalties than we were, but you’re playing against the champions, and the referee doesn’t always look both ways. That’s life, but from a points perspective it was crucial that we got the penalty at the end to firstly win the game, and secondly deny Exeter a bonus point.”
Moving into back-to-back European Challenge Cup ties with Russian side Enisei-STM, the first of which is at Kingston Park on Sunday, Richards added: “We’ve now got two results to get in Europe as we look to reach the quarter-finals, and then two in the Anglo-Welsh Cup to make the semis. It’s an exciting time in all competitions, and we’ve given ourselves a chance.
“Enisei will be a bit like Exeter in terms of how they play, in some ways. They’re no slouches, they’re a big side and they’ll hit hard. They’re very physical, they carry hard and it won’t be a roll-over.”
Tickets for Sunday’s 3pm kick-off against Enisei-STM are available by clicking here.