It might not have been pretty but Newcastle Falcons showed guts aplenty as they held on for an Aviva Premiership victory over Harlequins at Kingston Park Stadium on Saturday.
In front of a bumper home crowd of 9,128 they withstood a fierce Quins rally to claim four precious Aviva Premiership points in a display laden with heart and defensive zeal.
Newcastle had opened the scoring on 13 minutes when Sonatane Takulua chipped over the simplest of penalties from bang in front after Harlequins’ back row had strayed offside.
His team by that stage had already had a try turned down by the video referee when Will Witty fell just short of grounding the ball in support of Juan Pablo Socino’s line-break, Simon Hammersley also going close as he hacked ahead from Nili Latu’s well-judged grubber.
The Falcons’ lead was increased to eight points when Vereniki Goneva dotted down in the right corner, the Fijian collecting a lofted pass from Toby Flood before coolly easing his way past the last man for an unconverted score.
Takulua regained his goal-kicking range from a close-range penalty on 25 minutes when a high tackle from Gary Graham’s line-break handed the Tongan a simple pop at the posts, and they almost had a second try when Mark Wilson, on the day of his 200th appearance, broke away down the right.
Goneva was equally potent at the other end when he saved a try by chasing down Tim Visser, the former Falcons wing having been put away by Mike Brown for what seemed a certain score before the crucial intervention.
Solid ruck defence prevented a further Quins score when a penalty was kicked to touch in the left corner, Newcastle’s maul defence standing up to the challenge before their breakdown unit forced a turnover penalty at ruck time.
That ensured they retained their 11-0 lead at the interval, Harlequins wiping seven off the deficit four minutes into the second half when a patient multi-phase attack ended with Brown crashing over at first receiver, Marcus Smith converting.
Superb jackal from Kyle Cooper at a ruck inside his own 22 forced a crucial penalty against a rejuvenated Quins side, Newcastle’s line-speed and defensive organisation rising to the challenge as the Londoners enjoyed a greater share of possession.
The home side’s lead was reduced to just a single point going into the final 12 minutes when, despite absorbing a series of Quins forays, they finally conceded a penalty to Smith for midfield offside.
It all set up a nail-biting climax, Newcastle bringing on their bench to add some much-nedeed impetus as they held on until a relieving final whistle.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti (Alex Tait, 46), 10 Toby Flood (Joel Hodgson, 72), 9 Sonatane Takulua (Michael Young, 72); 1 Rob Vickers (Sam Lockwood, 67), 2 Kyle Cooper (Ben Sowrey, 73), 3 Jon Welsh, 4 Calum Green (Sean Robinson, 67), 5 Will Witty, 6 Mark Wilson (captain), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Nili Latu (Ryan Burrows, 67).
Falcons scorers - Tries: Vereniki Goneva. Penalties: Sonatane Takulua 2.
Harlequins: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Charlie Walker, 13 Alofa Alofa (Henry Cheeseman, 73), 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jono Kitto (Dave Lewis, 61); 1 Joe Marler, 2 Dave Ward (captain), 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 George Merrick, 5 Ben Glynn, 6 James Chisholm, 7 Chris Robshaw, 8 Renaldo Bothma (Mat Luamanu, 61).
Harlequins scorers - Tries: Mike Brown. Conversions: Marcus Smith. Penalties: Marcus Smith.
Referee: Luke Pearce. Attendance: 9,128.
Hammersley, Goneva, Harris, Socino, Sinoti, Flood, Takulua, Vickers, Cooper, Welsh, Green, Witty, Wilson, Graham, Latu
Replacements Sowrey, Lockwood, Wilson, Robinson, Burrows, Young, Hodgson, Tait
Brown, Walker, Alofa, Roberts, Visser, Smith, Kitto, Marler, Ward, Sinckler, Merrick, Glynn, Chisholm, Robshaw, Bothma
Replacements Piper, Boyce, Swainston, Matthews, Luamanu, Lewis, Lang, Cheeseman
referee: Luke Pearce
assistant: Hamish Smales
assistant: John Meredith
TMO: Graham Hughes