A late show from Newcastle Falcons ensured a 14-12 victory over Nottingham at an unseasonal Meadow Lane.
Dominating the forward battle in the closing stages of the contest, the Falcons earned themselves a penalty at the scrum 25 metres out which second-half replacement Joel Hodgson slotted home to ensure his side’s unbeaten run remained intact.
The Falcons, who travelled down to the East Midlands on the day of the match, have now notched up nineteen straight league wins ahead of the end of season play-offs.
Tom Catterick gave the Falcons the early breakthrough with a try on 13 minutes following some ingenuity in the backline.
Recent acquisition Noah Cato sliced through the Nottingham rear-guard at will before offloading to Ryan Shortland, whose exquisite pass found Catterick on the overlap to score in the corner. Gopperth failed with the touchline conversion and the Falcons led 5-0.
It was just what Dean Richards’ men deserved after piling on the pressure with the likes of Richard Mayhew, Will Welch, Jonny Golding and Oliver Tomaszczyk carting the ball up through the middle to provide the platform for the backline.
Striking the first blow, the Falcons’ lead was short-lived when winger Alex Lewington touched down in the corner four minutes later. Tim Streather and Joe Munro combined to send Lewington in for the try. Arlidge was unable to get enough purchase on the conversion and the score remained 5-5.
10 minutes from the break Nottingham were underlining their attacking intent, turning down three shots at goal deep inside Newcastle territory in favour of a kick to touch. Ally Hogg was sin-binned for the third of those infringements, and from the resulting lineout former Falcon Brent Wilson added the final touches to a rolling maul to give his side the upper hand. Arlidge made no mistake with the extras to put Nottingham 12-5 in front at the interval.
That would be the last of Nottingham’s scores as the Falcons came out for the second period determined to seal another triumph on the road.
Three minutes into the second stanza Jimmy Gopperth had the chance to reduce the deficit to 12-8 with a penalty 35 metres out wide left, but his attempt fell short of goal and Nottingham cleared their lines. Uncharacteristically, Gopperth missed the target with his second shot at goal moments later, a penalty that the No.10 would normally have slotted home.
Third time lucky, the Kiwi fly-half converted a 30 metre penalty after the Falcons showed their dominance at the scrum. 12-8 behind, the northeasterners began to take control of the affair upfront with Scott MacLeod leading by example.
A string of drives got the visitors into Nottingham’s 22 before referee Steven Lee awarded the scrum, where yet again the Falcons' supremacy told to win the penalty. Gopperth kicked the goal to make it 12-11 with just under 20 minutes left on the clock.
In keeping with the theme of the evening, the Falcons' strength and know how came to the fore at the scrum as they won another penalty directly in front of the posts which replacement fly-half Hodgson despatched to edge the Kingston Park outfit 14-12 in front.
Hodgson’s penalty proved to be the deciding points of the game, and with the Falcons camped inside the Green and Whites’ 22 in injury time, Ollie Stedman hoofed the ball into touch to bring up the Falcons’ nineteenth ‘W’ of their Championship campaign.
Nottingham Rugby: 15 Andrew Savage, 14 Alexander Lewington, 13 Timothy Streather, 12 Joe Munro, 11 David Jackson, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Sean Romans, 1 Matthew Parr, 2 Joseph Duffy, 3 Michael Holford, 4 Daniel Montagu, 5 Nicholas Rouse, 6 Rupert Cooper, 7 Brent Wilson (c), 8 Alexander Shaw
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Joseph Quinn, 19 Thomas Calladine, 20 Finlay Barnham, 21 Joe Cobden, 22 Andrew Forsyth
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 James Goode, 19 Ollie Stedman, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Crockett