Newcastle Falcons suffered a narrow 19-17 Aviva A League North defeat against Northampton Wanderers in atrocious conditions at Blaydon.
A last gasp Ross McMillan touchdown secured victory for the Franklin’s Gardens outfit, but the Falcons showed a steely reserve and team spirit throughout the encounter to almost take the spoils.
Both sides battled the elements in the early stages of the game with ball handling proving difficult in the sodden conditions.
A hard-hitting run and a ball and all smash from former Blaydon boy James Fitzpatrick warmed the crowd up early on, before the visitors demonstrated their attacking intent with a period of sustained pressure.
Centre Tom Stephenson went close to registering the first score for the Saints on 15 minutes when he came in on the angle, only to be tackled just short of the line. Good work from the pack earned the Falcons a penalty at the breakdown and Waisea Luveniyali cleared his lines.
On 23 minutes Fitzpatrick’s endeavor for his work-rate in the first period was rewarded with a try in the corner following patient build-up in the forwards. A series of carries from Grant Shiells, Scott Wilson and Sean Tomes set the platform for the hosts, before the ball was flung wide to Michael Tait who had Fitzpatrick on the overlap. Luveniyali added the extras for a 7-0 lead.
Northampton leveled the score six minutes later with a penalty try thanks to some good scrummaging. Will Hooley converted from bang in front of the posts to make it seven apiece.
The Franklin’s Gardens outfit came out spritely for the second-half looking for the early score, with fly-half Dooley’s attempted drop-goal charged down by his opposite number Luveniyali.
Wanderers' scrum-half Ryan Glynn started to orchestrate proceedings, providing good ball for the forwards to make good yardage. With Northampton camped inside the Falcons’ 22, they made their pressure count on 55 minutes thanks to a second penalty try of the evening.
A five-metre scrum went the way of Wanderers, earning them the five-point score with Hooley adding the extras.
The Falcons replicated the same feat 15 minutes from time, as they underlined their dominance at the scrum to win the penalty try. Grant Connon took over the kicking duties to restore parity.
Gunning for the win, the North East unit were piling on the pressure with the clock ticking down, and a Connon penalty 25-metres out looked to have sealed a crucial Aviva A League triumph.
17-14 in front with five minutes remaining, the visitors nicked the win courtesy of a drive over try finished off by McMillan. Hooley failed with the conversion but it pailed into insignificance as Northampton left Blaydon with the points.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Suka Hufanga, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Michael Tait, 10Waisea Luveniyali, 9 Jordi Pasqualin, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Michael Mayhew, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Chris Wearmouth, 6 Ben Morris, 7 James Hamilton, 8 Joe Robinson
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 James Hallam, 18 Andrew Foster, 19 Josh Hedley, 20 Ollie Hodgson, 21 Jonny Burn, 22 Grant Connon, 23 Charles Incledon
Northampton Wanderers: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Tom Collins, 13 Scott Armstrong, 12 Tom Stephenson, 11 Anders Mogensen, 10 Will Hooley, 9 Ryan Glynn, 1 Ethan Waller, 2 Ross McMillan, 3 Danny Herriott, 4 Tom Hicks, 5 Alex Woolford, 6 Ben Nutley, 7 Teimana Harrison, 8 Mark Hopley (c)
Replacements: 16 Matt Williams, 17 Danny Hobbs, 18 Tom Rhodes, 19 Darrell Dyer, 20 Jamie Warr, 21 Jack Allcock, 22 Alex Day, 23 Alex Wooton