A delighted Dean Richards hailed his Newcastle Falcons battlers for showing the guts to come back for a 24-22 home win over Bath on Friday night in another Kingston Park nailbiter.
Ben Harris’ 77th minute try and Joel Hodgson’s conversion handed them a win which lifted them into the top half of the table, and their director of rugby was fulsome in his praise.
Richards said: “To be fair to Bath, they are a really good side and it was always going to be nip and tuck. Having said that, the boys had belief and stuck at it. We were 12 points down and just went for it, and the boys really showed a lot of guts and courage.
“The crowd were phenomenal – the last five minutes especially. The players came in afterwards and were commenting on how the fans carried them through. It is a little bit noisier in the changing room and the boys are up for a bit of a party. Good luck to them.”
Having led within the first four minutes but trailing going into a tense climax, the Falcons boss said: “We leaked a couple of soft tries which put us under a bit of pressure, but at the same time there was that belief to go out there, pull it back and win the game.
“We said very little at half time, to be honest with you. A lot of the stuff was said by the players themselves, and you don’t really have to say too much with our guys. There are so many good brains in there, they are mature in their rugby knowledge and they very much control it themselves.
“We don’t get the rub of the green with decisions because we are not the vogue side, and as a consequence we have to work hard for every little thing that we get. The boys understand that, and until we start winning titles we will be in that position. That’s the way it is and we will work hard, but the boys have this belief that they can win every week.
“We have improved each season, and this season I feel we have only improved a little bit, but that little bit is the difference between winning and losing. It makes a big difference.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have had three years of misfortune with injuries and various bits and pieces, and each year we have strengthened the side. We have developed and matured a bit each season, and it is turning into a side now which has that inner belief that we can win every game we go into. There is no reason why we shouldn’t do that, because we have the quality of players required for the challenge.”
Asked about man of the match Joel Hodgson, Richards said of his homegrown fly-half: “Joel is a local boy who went away for a couple of years, and has matured massively.
“He understands the game incredibly well, is a leader in his own right and when he speaks the boys listen to him. You can have all of that but you have still got to back it up with your play, and he is very much doing that.”
Newcastle now move into a fortnight of European Challenge Cup action, facing Grenoble away on Friday before the visit of Pool B leaders Ospreys on Saturday January 21.
Richards said: “I have got a few boys who need a rest, a few who are injured and a few who need some rugby, so the side won’t be the same in Grenoble. Having said that, there is that belief throughout the whole squad, as we saw tonight when the replacements came on and carried us home.”
Tickets for the visit of Ospreys on Saturday January 21 (kick-off 5pm) are available by calling 0871 226 6060 or clicking here.