Newcastle Falcons sealed a shock victory over an in-form Gloucester on Saturday, winning 27-21 in an epic Premiership meeting at Kingsholm.
The Falcons, who were bottom of the standings before kick off, built up a 24-0 lead within the first 35 minutes but Gloucester fought back to dominate a second half which saw four Newcastle players sin-binned.
Adam Radwan, George McGuigan and Callum Chick went over for Newcastle‘s tries, with Brett Connon converting all three and adding two penalties.
Gloucester’s tries came from Tom Seabrook and Cam Jordan, both converted by George Barton, in addition to a penalty try award.
Newcastle took an early lead thanks to a brilliant individual try from Radwan. The twice-capped England wing received the ball on halfway, close to the left touchline, before running around two defenders and then out-pacing the cover defence to score in the right-hand corner.
Shortly afterwards, Falcons shocked the hosts by scoring again. Captain Michael Young broke away from a line-out on halfway and when the ball was recycled, Chick was on hand to crash over with a second conversion from Connon giving Newcastle a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Gloucester continued to be largely lifeless with their game littered by uncustomary handling errors and they even bungled their forte, a driving line-out 10 metres from the opposition line – so it came as no surprise when Newcastle extended their lead with a straightforward penalty from Connon.
The home side’s miserable half continued when McGuigan finished off a driving line-out but with two minutes of the half remaining, Gloucester responded with a try from Seabrook after the wing had bumped off a weak tackle from Nathan Earle.
Gloucester trailed 24-7 at half-time with front-rowers, Jack Singleton and Ciaran Knight, introduced in an attempt to reverse their fortunes.
However the first 15 minutes of the second half remained scoreless until McGuigan and Sean Robinson were yellow-carded in quick succession for collapsing driving mauls and Gloucester had no trouble in capitalising when replacement Jordan finished off a succession of forward drives.
Despite being down to 13, Falcons remarkably won a penalty for Connon to kick before McGuigan became the first to return from the sin-bin.
Robinson also returned but Newcastle continued to offend, with both Chick and Tom Penny yellow-carded in quick succession and the hosts awarded a penalty try for collapsing for Penny’s infraction.
Gloucester had eight minutes against 13 men to score the winning try but somehow Newcastle frustrated them to secure a notable victory.
Elsewhere, Exeter Chiefs ended their three-match losing streak with a hard-fought 22-17 triumph over London Irish at Sandy Park in the Premiership.
It was far from a classic, particularly in a very nervy second half, when both sides made a number of unforced errors, but the Chiefs did enough in the opening 40 minutes to just about secure a much-needed victory.
The win was based very much on an excellent home defensive display as they repeatedly frustrated Irish close to the Chiefs’ line.
Irish started well and were rewarded for their early pressure with a Paddy Jackson penalty.
But Exeter, missing 22 players due to injuries and international call-ups, turned to their forwards to get them a firm foothold in the contest.
Back-rower Dave Ewers drove over from close range after the attack had initially been launched by a weaving run from winger Olly Woodburn, with Joe Simmonds adding the conversion.
South African lock Ruben van Heerden forced his way over the whitewash 11 minutes later – moments after Irish winger Ben Loader had been sin-binned for killing the ball – and Chiefs led 12-3.
Irish turned down a couple of very kickable penalties in search of a bigger prize by kicking to the corner but good home defence held them out, and they gifted the Chiefs their third try five minutes before half-time.
A no-look pass by South African centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg was intercepted by Woodburn, who ran 45 metres to touch down, with Simmonds adding the extras.
Irish had a great chance to reduce the deficit right on the stroke of half-time from a catch-and-drive line-out, but they were penalised for crossing and they headed down the tunnel with a 16-point gap to make up.
Irish began the second half very brightly, and after 12 minutes they finished off a quickly taken tap penalty, with Samoan number eight So’otala Fa’aso’o getting the grounding, and Jackson’s kick cutting the score to 19-10.
However, Irish gifted their hosts a penalty for offside almost straight from the restart, with Simmonds on target from 35 metres to edge Exeter further in front.
Irish kept battering away at the Exeter line, but some superb defence kept them out.
Chiefs’ young captain for the night Dafydd Jenkins rejected a penalty that would have put them three scores clear if slotted, and they then failed to throw in straight at the five-metre line-out.
The potential importance of that was driven home by Irish three minutes from time when replacement Tom Pearson forced his way over the line, with Jackson converting to cut the gap to only five points, but Exeter hung on in the tense closing stages.