17 April 2016
London Irish failed to make their chances pay as Newcastle Falcons moved seven points clear at the foot of the Aviva Premiership table with a 13-6 victory.
Marcus Watson’s opportunist try on 26 minutes proved to be the difference as the Newcastle flyer intercepted Greig Tonks’ loose pace to race half the length of the field to dot down under the posts.
The Exiles, who were backed by a sea of green at Kingston Park, spurned a string of second half chances to let Newcastle off the hook, a losing bonus point scant consolation for Tom Coventry’s men.
Irish now have two games to save their season with Harlequins the visitors to the Madejski in two weeks’ time, before a trip to Wasps on the final day of the campaign.
Phase after phase of attacks, try as they might, the Exiles were unable to unhinge the Falcons’ backline, a lack of accuracy and composure costing Irish dear.
Exiles fly-half Tonks and Newcastle’s Mike Delany traded penalties with 11 minutes on the clock as the tension engulfed Tyneside. Tonks edged Irish further ahead with his second penalty of the afternoon moments later, but the hosts hit the Exiles with a sucker-punch as the half-hour mark loomed. Watson pounced on a wayward pass to sprint home from half-way, Delany added the extras to give his side a 10-6 lead.
The Falcons had their tails up in the minutes that immediately followed and Newcastle went agonisingly close to crossing the whitewash on the stroke of half-time through Argentinian international Gonzalo Tiesi, who was making his return for Newcastle following a lengthy spell on the side-line.
Exerting Irish under huge pressure, Tiesi took the initiative to burrow his way to the line in the near corner, only to be held up by a desperate Exiles defence before being bundled into touch. It was a crucial moment in a game of fine margins and the men in green went into the break 10-6 down.
Irish began the second period in spritely fashion with promising centre Johnny Williams slicing through Newcastle’s rearguard to set-up the visitors’ first of a number of clear-cut chances. Williams offloaded to Aseli Tikoiratuma on the overlap, but the Fijian’s offload to Andrew Fenby went to ground and Newcastle cleared their lines.
Newcastle extended their advantage to 13-6 two minutes later, Juan Pablo Socino despatching a penalty from 25 metres out after referee Wayne Barnes penalised Tom Smallbone for a late challenge on Delany after the Kiwi had put boot to ball.
On 48 minutes the Exiles went within inches of the Falcons’ try line once again, Fenby on his return to his former club was the catalyst with a defence-splitting break. A series of drives ensued, but when the ball was moved wide, Williams’ decisive pass was adjudged to have been forward.
Dean Richards’ men to their credit showed resilience in defence to deny Irish the try on that occasion, and with the hour mark approaching, it was the Exiles’ turn to defend for their lives as Newcastle looked to push home their advantage. Irish earned a penalty to relieve the pressure and turn defence into attack.
The TMO was soon called into action on 66 minutes when Fenby looked like he may have latched onto Shane Geraghty’s neat chip over the top. However, the ball had gone dead in goal before Fenby had the chance to gather the ball.
Coventry’s charges continued their attacking intent, looking to puncture holes in the Falcons’ backline, but as the game came to a close their efforts were in vain as Newcastle’s staunch defence won the day.
Tries: Marcus Watson
Conversions: Mike Delany
Penalties: Mike Delany, Juan Pablo Socino
Penalties: Greig Tonks (2)
Score Sequence (London Irish second) 0-3, 3-3, 3-6, 10-6, 13-6
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi (Chris Harris, 43), 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Marcus Watson, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Michael Young (Sonatane Takulua, 69), 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Taione Vea, 4 Calum Green, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c) (Ally Hogg, 4), 8 Nili Latu
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Mike Cusack, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Ally Hogg, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Chris Harris
London Irish: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Lewington (Brendan McKibbin, 72), 13 Ciaran Hearn (Aseli Tikoirotuma, 24), 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Greig Tonks (Shane Geraghty, 34), 9 Scott Steele, 1 Tom Court (Tom Smallbone, 40), 2 David Paice (Tom Cruse, 68), 3 Halani Aulika (Leo Halavatau, 64), 4 Will Lloyd (Jerry Sexton, 67), 5 Matt Symons, 6 Jebb Sinclair (Rob McCusker, 62), 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Luke Narraway (c)
Replacements: 16 Tom Cruse, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Leo Halavatau, 19 Jerry Sexton, 20 Rob McCusker, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Shane Geraghty, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Attendance: 7, 756