Dean Richards felt Newcastle Falcons were worthy of their 19-17 home victory over Sale Sharks on Friday night, even though it took a last-minute penalty miss to secure the points.
Dan Mugford’s pop for the posts in the 80th minute sailed high and wide as Newcastle won their Aviva Premiership opener for the first time in nine years, the director of rugby saying: “The crowd more than played their part, and I dare say nobody left the stadium before the end.
“It was one of those nights in that sense, but the support was great and they got the win that their backing deserved.
“We nearly threw it away and we shouldn’t have been in that position in the first place. You could see it happening, two avoidable penalties put us in that position, and that is the annoying part. Having said that, had it been last year we would have lost, but this is a different season and I think we will be a little bit luckier!”
Sinoti Sinoti’s first-half try and the boot of Mike Delany built enough of a buffer, Richards saying: “When we stuck to our shape and how we wanted to play, we made a lot of line-breaks and looked really dangerous. We didn’t finish them off, which was disappointing, but when we stuck to our style and executed what we had talked about we looked a good side.
“Sale are a strong outfit, they came here with a big pack and I thought our forwards were more than a match for them. Out wide Goneva and Sinoti were both very strong, I was pleased with most of the performance but little things make a big difference. Had we not made those silly mistakes and given those penalties away they would never have been near us. We need to understand where we are on the field and not concede those penalties.”
Putting aside their nine-year barren streak on opening day, the director of rugby said: “The players have been talking about it for a while. Not necessarily the nine years, but just about getting this first win under our belt. I am not saying they didn’t last year or the year before, but there was a real player-driven focus and you could sense it all week.
“Sonatane Takulua and Mike Delany ran the half-backs well, Mark Wilson in the back row had a huge night, our set piece tidied itself up in the second half and there were lots of good bits.
“I was a little bit surprised the referee didn’t have a look at himself after the incident which saw Taione Vea get carried off. It looked a no-arms tackle to me, but there you go. We will have a look at it, and I’m surprised the referee didn’t at the time.”
Facing Bath away next up, he added: “The beauty of the Aviva Premiership is that you have huge games every week, but none of the sides in this division should worry us unduly.
“We have beaten most of them at some stage over the past few years, probably Saracens aside, and everyone is there to be taken. We just need to go down there and deliver.”