A fourteen-man Newcastle kept their survival hopes alive with a priceless 19-10 win over London Irish at Kingston Park on Saturday.
A fourteen-man Newcastle kept their Aviva Premiership survival hopes alive with a priceless 19-10 win over London Irish at Kingston Park on Saturday.
Jimmy Gopperth and Tom Homer demonstrated why they are two of the most reliable kickers in the Premiership by exchanging penalties early on.
But it was the visitors who scored the game's first try, the 44th that Newcastle have conceded already this season. After the Falcons' line-out was disrupted, Matt Garvey hacked the ball ahead and flying winger Sailosi Tagicakibau gathered and touched it down.
The league's bottom club fought hard to get back into the game though and, after a period of sustained pressure, Gopperth took the opportunity to slot over a drop-goal and reduce the deficit to 10-6 at half-time.
Gopperth narrowed the gap even further early in the second half with another successful penalty attempt.
But Newcastle's task was made even more difficult on the hour mark as South African lock Adriaan Fondse was given a straight red card.
Irish were unable to take advantage of the extra man though and Falcons' Kiwi winger Ryan Shortland showed great opportunism to intercept a Delon Armitage pass and sprint half the length of the pitch to put his side 16-10 ahead.
With ten minutes remaining, Gopperth missed the chance to put the game beyond the visitors with a long-range penalty but he was given a second bite at the cherry moments later.
This time the New Zealander made no mistake and calmly slotted the ball between the posts to give Newcastle a vital win in their quest for survival.
Late yellow cards for Jon Golding and Richard Thorpe meant the game finished on a slightly sour note but the Falcons won't mind too much as they held on to claw their way to within six points of safety.
Pen: Gopperth 3
For London Irish:
Newcastle: 15 Greg Goosen, 14 Tom Bedford, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth (capt), 9 Chris Pilgrim, 8 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch, 6 Ally Hogg, 5 Tim Swinson, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Rob Vickers, 1 Grant Shiells.
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Ashley Wells, 19 Andrew van der Heijden, 20 Taiasina Tu'ifua , 21 Will Chudley, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Ricki Sherrife.
London Irish: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Tom Homer, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Dan Bowden, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Richard Thorpe, 7 Kieran Roche, 6 Matt Garvey, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Nick Kennedy (capt), 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 David Paice, 1 Max Lahiff.
Replacements: 16 James Buckland, 17 Clarke Dermody, 18 Paulica Ion, 19 Bob Casey, 20 Ed Siggery, 21 Marland Yarde, 22 Adrian Jarvis, 23 Paul Hodgson.
Referee: JP Doyle