Newcastle Falcons continued their winning streak for the season with a bonus-point triumph over Nottingham at Kingston Park.
A late try from Luke Fielden secured maximum points for the Falcons to move them 12 points clear at the top of the RFU Championship table.
With the Falcons gunning for their fourth try of the evening, Fielden marked his return to first team action with a well-worked try, skinning his opposite number to cross in the corner.
Richard Mayhew gave the Falcons a sixth minute lead with a drive over try thanks to some excellent work from the pack.
Mark Wilson gave the Falcons the momentum in attack, palming back a Gopperth Garryowen to set the platform.
After a string of drives from Oliver Tomaszczyk, Sean Tomes and Scott MacLeod, the Falcons earned a penalty inside the visitors’ 22, and Gopperth elected to kick for touch in favour of the three points.
From the resulting lineout the northeasterners formed a dominant rolling maul with Mayhew touching down in the corner. Gopperth’s touchline conversion arrowed between the sticks, and the Falcons had the advantage at 7-0.
20 minutes into the affair and Jamie Helleur was having a solid game on his return to the starting XV, further enhanced with a ball and all smash on his opposite number.
From that phase of play Richards’ men were penalised for offside, and Nottingham fly-half James Arlidge converted from in front of the posts to reduce the arrears to 7-3.
The Green and Whites soon narrowed the gap to 7-6 when Arlidge slotted home a penalty from 25-metres out after the Falcons infringed at the ruck. An overthrow at the lineout from the home side gave Nottingham the impetus in attack. The ball was swung wide and following a series of robust hit-ups, Martin Haag’s troops earned the penalty.
Three minutes from the interval Arlidge had the chance to edge his side 9-6 in front with a penalty 35-metres out, but he could only pull his effort wide of the upright.
The thought of going into the break trailing spurred the Falcons into action, and against the run of play full-back Alex Tait went close to setting Ryan Shortland free down the near side.
Collecting a Nottingham kick down field, Tait dipped his shoulder before feeding the Kiwi flyer, who was thwarted by a scrambling visiting rearguard. From the breakdown Rob Vickers demonstrated he was in no mood to hang around, and his marauding drive set the tone as the Falcons won a penalty on the stroke of half-time.
Gopperth’s 35-metre penalty wide left eased past the near post, and the hosts went into the changing rooms with a slender 7-6 lead.
Two minutes into the second stanza, Gopperth struck the post with a penalty and Nottingham managed to hack the loose ball into touch.
Gopperth had the chance to make amends immediately when referee Steven Lee spotted an altercation at the resulting lineout. This time the Falcons No.10 made no mistake to extend his side’s lead to 10-6.
On 48 minutes the crowd were on their feet celebrating a try from Tait, who scampered in for the five-point score following a neat offload from Ally Hogg. Hogg received the ball from Shortland, who broke the line at speed before feeding the Scot. Gopperth added the extras to make it 17-6.
Nottingham replied two minutes later with a penalty to reduce the gap to 17-9, as they cranked up the pressure on the Falcons. During a period of sustained pressure from the East Midland’s club, referee Mr Lee found himself under a heap of bodies at the ruck, much to the amusement of the on-looking spectators.
With eight minutes plus injury time left on the clock, Newcastle were on the charge, in search of their third try of the evening. Penned in the Nottingham 22, the Green and Whites were reduced to 14 men when prop Matt Parr was sin-binned for persistent offences at the scrum. With their fifth successive attempt at the scrum, the Falcons were awarded the penalty try, which Gopperth duly converted from bang in front of the posts to put his side in the ascendancy at 24-9
Eying the bonus point win, the Falcons were throwing everything at their opponents, attempting to secure the five-point triumph that they craved.
And the Kingston Park club got their reward through Luke Fielden, who scooted in at the corner to mark his return from injury. Clean breaks from Mayhew and Tane Tu’ipulotu got the Kingston Park faithful rocking, and after a number of strong carries the Falcons made full use of numbers out wide with Fielden sprinting in.
Gopperth failed with the touchline conversion, and with the last play of the game Tait spurned the opportunity of his brace for the evening, as he knocked the ball on with the try line beckoning following a Fielden break.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Ally Hogg (c)
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 James Goode, 19 Chris York, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Crockett
Nottingham: 15 Andrew Savage, 14 David Jackson, 13 Joe Cobden, 12 Joe Munro, 11 Rhys Crane, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Sean Romans, 1 Matt Parr, 2 Joe Duffey, 3 Michael Holford, 4 Dan Montagu, 5 Nic Rouse, 6 Tom Calladine, 7 Brent Wilson (c)
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Matt Shields, 18 Joe Quinn, 19 Rupert Cooper, 20 Finlay Barnham, 21 Rory Lynn, 22 Tim Streather