Newcastle Falcons suffered defeat at the hands of London Irish in the LV= Cup on Sunday despite showcasing some free-flowing rugby on a fine autumn day.
The Falcons who rested a number of key personnel ahead of next week’s Aviva Premiership trip to Northampton let slip an 18-16 lead with just over 20 minutes left on the clock.
A Steven Shingler penalty and drop goal coupled with tries from Daniel Bowden and Adam Thompstone in the final quarter of the game ensured the Berkshire based club secured a bonus-point victory.
Alan Tait’s men must now dust themselves down as the more serious business of Premiership rugby nears its return after a two-week absence.
Following next weekend’s date with the Saints, the northeasterners host Worcester Warriors under the lights of Kingston Park on Friday 4 November (kick-off 7.45pm).
Newcastle started the game brightly and looked to have crossed the whitewash within the first 10 minutes through Luke Eves, but the Bristolian was adjudged to have knocked on over the try line. Jeremy Manning was already demonstrating his creativity at fly-half setting up the chance with a neat pass.
After a period of sustained pressure on the Irish try line the Falcons got their just reward thanks to a touchdown from Jamie Helleur.
Manning’s sublime looping pass found the Samoan centre who strolled in at the corner to the delight of the North East support.
The Exiles responded well and within four minutes of going behind they were in front by virtue of a converted Adam Thompstone try. Jonathan Joseph was the architect with a clever reverse pass to the winger who crashed over for the score.
Not deterred by going behind the Tyneside unit rallied together to pressurise their opponents rearguard and were rewarded for their endeavour with a 23rd minute penalty within range of the uprights.
Kiwi Manning duly obliged smashing home a 35-metre penalty dead centre of the posts to edge his side 8-7 in front.
Toby Booth’s troops were back in the ascendancy on 26 minutes courtesy of a Shingler penalty for offside. It got worse for the Falcons moments later when they were penalised for not releasing in the tackle, allowing Shingler the chance of a simple three points.
On the stroke of half-time Shingler increased the Londoners’ advantage to 16-8 with a further penalty following an infringement at the ruck.
Whatever was said in the dressing-room at the break seemed to have done the trick as the Falcons showed a hunger and desire to take control of affairs in the early exchanges of the second stanza.
Manning went close to regaining the lead for his side with an audacious drop-goal attempt which cannoned off the crossbar.
The Falcons were in the groove with the likes of Ally Hogg coming to the fore as skipper in the absence of the suspended James Hudson.
On 49 minutes following a succession of phases the Falcons scored a well-worked try finished off by Greg Goosen. The South African took advantage of a two-on-one situation shrugging off a pair of Irish would-be tacklers on his way to the line.
And Manning put his side 18-16 in front with a penalty on 53 minutes to keep alive the Falcons hopes of a 100% start to their LV= Cup campaign.
Irish were immediately on the attack and following a series of hard-hitting phases Tait’s outfit were penalised for a deliberate knock-on.
Bowden who replaced Shingler at half-time nailed the penalty to give his side a slender 19-18 lead.
On 58 minutes Delon Armitage marked his return from the World Cup with a try thanks to a superb Bowden pass wide right.
The Exiles extended their advantage minutes later with a Bowden drop-goal before he got in on the act on the try scoring front. Bowden scooted in under the posts following a powerful break from Irish debutant Shontayne Hape.
Thompstone rounded off the scoring for the Londoners chasing through a Bowden grubber to get sufficient downward pressure to make it 39-18 with five minutes to go.
Newcastle reduced the arrears with the last play of the match thanks to Joe Graham’s rampaging drive from close-range. Replacement Joel Hodgson skewed the conversion wide.
London Irish: Delon Armitage, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Shontayne Hape, Adam Thompstone, Steven Shingler, Ross Samson, Max Lahiff, James Buckland, Paulica Ion, Nick Kennedy (c), Bryn Evans, DeclanDanaher, Jamie Gibson, Richard Thorpe
Replacements: Brian Blaney, Leo Halavatau, Faan Rautenbach, James Sandford, David Sisi, Guy Armitage, Daniel Bowden, Darren Allinson
Newcastle: Greg Goosen, Rikki Sheriffe, Luke Eves, Jamie Helleur, Alex Tait, Jeremy Manning, Chris Pilgrim, Darren Fearn, Michael Mayhew, James Hall, Glen Townson, Andrew van der Heijden, Mark Wilson, Redford Pennycook, Ally Hogg (c)
Replacements: Joe Graham, Dan Frazier, Ashley Wells, Tim Swinson, Will Welch, Jordi Pasqualin, Joel Hodgson, Corne Uys
Tickets for the Falcons next home game against Worcester on Friday 4 November (kick-off 7.45pm) are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for juniors. They are available by calling the Falcons Ticket Hotline on 0871 226 6060 or please click here.