Newcastle Falcons toiled with the wind in their faces for the final 40 minutes to claim a nailbiting Guinness Premiership victory over high-flying Gloucester at Kingston Park on Sunday.Makeshift fly half Tom May stepped up to deliver the decisive blow with a 70th-minute penalty in to the teeth of a torrential gale, blasting the ball between the uprights and in to a jubilant South Stand.
Leading 7-0 at the interval courtesy of a superb try from wing Danny Williams – his fourth touchdown in consecutive games – it was edge-of-the-seat stuff from there on in as Rory Lawson’s try just two minutes in to the second half drew the sides level in a game where the famous Kingston Park wind dominated proceedings.
Despite starting with the elements in their favour, Newcastle were forced to feed off scraps of possession as a businesslike Gloucester team kept things tight and went through the phases, scrum half Lawson masterminding a one-out gameplan as the minutes ebbed away with little in the way of constructive attack.
The wind accounted for two early penalty misses as Falcons fly half Rory Clegg saw a brace of efforts blown off course, his Newcastle team forced to absorb persistent Gloucester drives round the fringes as the Cherry and Whites effectively played the conditions.
Line out security proved difficult for both packs due to the breeze, with the back rows forced in to armed combat as the fringe defence proved to be the key battleground – Phil Dowson, Adam Balding and Ed Williamson all fronting up with some fierce hits.
The deadlock was finally broken on 25 minutes as a midfield scrum 30 metres out saw skipper Dowson break to the right, wide man Williams collecting the ball on the 22 and powering clean through his tackler, scrambling to his feet and beating the retreating defence for pace to dive in right of the posts.
Clegg defied the conditions to slot through the conversion, with Gloucester closing out the final 15 minutes of the half through their persistent one-out game plan to keep the interval lead to just seven points.
The visitors started the livelier of the two sides after the break, Olly Barkley driving a masterful restart right in to the corner as the Cherry and Whites took advantage of their new-found wind advantage.
Scotland scrum half Lawson scooted over to level the scores after just two minutes as he spotted a rare chink in Newcastle’s defensive formation at a close-range ruck, Barkley levelling the scores with a well-taken conversion from the right hand side.
Deprived of a kicking game due to the incessant wind, the hosts were forced to play from their own 22, scrum half Micky Young driving the pace with his oustanding fringe running as captain Dowson supported to great effect.
Geoff Parling proved a thorn in the side at line out time as French replacement Olivier Azam suffered a bout of the wobbles with his throwing, nicking two consecutive Gloucester throws to relieve the pressure.
With Tom May switched to fly half and Steve Jones brought on at fullback for the second stanza Newcastle, to their credit, did not go in to their shells despite the wind – May probing the line and using the angled runs of Tane Tu’ipulotu and Jamie Noon to draw the defence and hit holes.
A succession of quick taps from Young kept Newcastle on the front foot, depriving Gloucester of possession, and the hosts even had a sniff of the lead on the hour mark as a Jones penalty went right of the posts.
But with ten minutes to play came the defining moment of the match, fly half May stepping up to take the pressure kick from just outside the 22 and towards the right hand side.
Holding his nerve, he smashed the ball straight in to the heart of the gale, giving it just enough legs to bisect the uprights and cue jubilant scenes at Kingston Park.
A nervy final passage of play saw Gloucester break their way in to Newcastle territory, but a gutsy Falcons side scrapped to the very last whistle in holding on for what could prove to be an invaulable victory.
Tries: D Williams
Tries: R Lawson
15 Tom May
14 Danny Williams
13 Jamie Noon
12 Tane Tu’ipulotu
11 Tim Visser
10 Rory Clegg (Steve Jones, 40)
9 Micky Young
1 David Wilson
2 Rob Vickers (Matt Thompson, 62)
3 Carl Hayman
4 Tim Swinson
5 Geoff Parling
6 Phil Dowson (captain)
7 Ed Williamson (Brent Wilson, 68)
8 Adam Balding (Mark Sorenson, 62)
15 Olly Morgan (Ryan Lamb, 48)
14 Matthew Watkins
13 Mike Tindall (captain, Anthony Allen, 64)
12 Olly Barkley
11 Mark Foster
10 Willie Walker
9 Rory Lawson
1 Alasdair Dickinson (Nick Wood, 40)
2 Andy Titterrell (Olivier Azam, 40)
3 Carlos Nieto
4 Marco Bortolami (Will James, 65)
5 Alex Brown
6 Alasdair Strokosch
7 Apo Satala
8 Luke Narraway
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth