A late Rob Vickers’ try secured a hugely important win for Newcastle Falcons, as they defeated Harlequins 26-19 at Kingston Park.
The Falcons controlled much of the first half and deserved their 10-0 advantage after 30 minutes, given to them by Nili Latu’s converted try and Craig Willis’ penalty.
Quins reduced that deficit to three points in the final minute of the opening period when Charlie Walker touched down and then took the lead after the interval through Dave Ward.
Walker crossed the whitewash for the second time as the visitors appeared to take control, but Newcastle hit back via the boot of Andy Goode, who kicked three penalties to level matters at 19-19.
With plenty on the line, it was the hosts who seized the initiative and won the game through Vickers.
As in the previous two years, Dean Richards’ men have struggled to compete against the top teams in the Premiership, but their recent victory over Bath hinted at better times ahead.
Latu’s early try duly confirmed the Tynesiders’ improvement as a powerful drive sent the visitors into reverse gear and the flanker touched down.
Willis’ three-pointer following an Alex Tait line break increased the buffer before Conor O’Shea’s team finally gained a foothold in proceedings.
Excellent work from Ward took play into the Newcastle 22 and Walker sped over to bring the London-based outfit back into the contest at the break.
Harlequins then moved ahead for the first time in the match when Ward was the beneficiary of a dominant maul.
O’Shea’s side were now very much in the ascendency and a brilliant George Lowe run and off-load sent Walker clear. The wing managed to sidestep Falcons’ full-back Simon Hammersley to cross the whitewash and extend Quins’ advantage to 19-10.
Replacement stand-off Goode kicked the hosts back into contention with two quick-fire penalties before the former England international was on target for the third time to equalise.
Both teams searched for the winning score and it eventually came as the Falcons showed incredible patience to allow Vickers to power over from close range.
Tries: Latu, Vickers
Cons: Willis, Goode
Pens: Willis, Goode
Tries: Walker 2, Ward
Cons: Evans 2
Newcastle: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Giamba Venditti, 10 Craig Willis, 9 Michael Young, 8 Ally Hogg, 7 Nili Latu, 6 Will Welch, 5 Sean Robinson, 4 Mark Wilson, 3 Taione Vea, 2 Scott Lawson, 1 Rob Vickers
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Andy Goode, 23 Adam Powell
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Marland Yarde, 13 George Lowe, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Charlie Walker, 10 Nick Evans (c), 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Mat Luamanu, 7 Dave Ward, 6 Luke Wallace, 5 Charlie Matthews, 4 James Horwill, 3 Will Collier, 2 Rob Buchanan, 1 Mark Lambert
Replacements: 16 Joe Gray, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Calum Waters, 22 Ben Botica, Tim Swiel
Referee: Luke Pearce
Assistant Referees: Darren Gamage, Paul Burton
TMO: Trevor Fisher