Newcastle Falcons 18 – 20 London Irish
Newcastle Falcons were the width of a post away from an Aviva Premiership draw on Sunday, Sinoti Sinoti’s late try setting up a dramatic finish.
Juan Pablo Socino had a touchline conversion to tie things up at 20-20, but the Argentinan’s attempt bounced back off the right post as the Exiles held on.
The hosts at least took a well-deserved bonus point for their efforts, finding themselves 6-5 down at half-time as a pair of Shane Geraghty penalties wiped out a Josh Furno try during a half in which the Falcons controlled most facets.
Changing the point of attack, taking clean line-out ball and camping themselves in the Exiles’ half, repeated incursions into the 22 were just not being converted with enough ruthlessness.
The groundwork was there, though, Simon Hammersley continuing his impressive start to the season with a string of raking punts from the back.
He, Noah Cato and Sinoti Sinoti counter-attacked solidly, fly-half Phil Godman seeing runners come off his shoulders as his side changed the attacking angle.
Furno, a lively presence in the loose, put his considerable frame to good use in the tight when a penalty in the left corner saw a line-out and a rolling maul propelling the Italian international over the try-line.
Socino’s conversion blew wide in the wind, just as his earlier penalty had done, and it was all razzle-dazzle as Sinoti ambitiously counter-attacked from his own 22 to half-way.
The Exiles slower pick-and-go game ate up a few yards, and got Geraghty to within kicking range as the centre drilled over a penalty from the left to reduce the margin to two.
More fluid offloading play from the Falcons had new dad Mark Wilson storming down the left wing after build-up from Cato and Socino, Scott Lawson winning a penalty on his own 22 with some eager ruck work.
Geraghty’s second penalty three minutes before the break handed Irish a one-point lead against the run of play, Socino falling short with an ambitious 50-metre shot with the very last play of the half.
The visitors enjoyed the brighter of the early exchanges after the resumption, Geraghty missing with a long-range penalty but keeping his composure as he laid on a try for Fergus Mulchrone down the right.
The former England man added the extras from wide, his side soon reduced to 14 men when prop Tom Court was sin-binned for a tackle on his own 22.
Socino fired wide with the resulting penalty, Ruki Tipuna’s injection of pace at scrum-half seeing Newcastle in behind the visitors’ defence.
A double prop change delivered further impetus as Scott Wilson and Alex Rogers entered the fray, the former steering a rolling maul over in the left corner as a shot at goal was turned down.
Godman put his body on the line with a thumping hit to deny James Short a certain try inside his own 22, but there was no stopping Andrew Fenby when the former Falcon was handed a try down the left via the video referee after a forward-looking pass.
Geraghty expertly curled in his conversion, but the home side were hanging in there as lazy running earned Socino a penalty which he slotted from the 22.
The Exiles tried to run down the clock as both sides rolled on their replacements, Newcastle spending most of the final 15 minutes in the opposition half and making it a nail-biter of a finish when Sinoti scored in the right corner.
Socino’s attempted conversion clattered into the right post, but his side were well worth their bonus point as they prepare for Sunday’s visit of champions Northampton Saints.