Dean Richards hailed Newcastle Falcons’ match-winner Vereniki Goneva as ‘sheer class’ following his 76th minute clincher at Northampton Saints on Friday night.
The Fijian winger intercepted on his own 22 and went the length to land the decisive blow in a 22-16 Aviva Premiership triumph at Franklin’s Gardens, his incisive running a feature throughout a deserved away triumph.
Richards, the director of rugby who pulled off a transfer coup in the summer by landing Goneva from Leicester Tigers, said: “Niki got us the go-forward that we needed, as did Opeti Fonua when he came on, but the interception and the way Niki stepped inside Ben Foden at the end was just sheer class.
“He is a quality player, and our back line as a whole fired tonight. I thought Joel Hodgson played really well, Juan Pablo Socino was outstanding in getting through a lot of work and full credit to guys like Fred Burdon, Brett Connon and Nick Civetta playing their first Aviva Premiership games.”
Hodgson got the Falcons into the lead with a try as early as the third minute, Will Witty grounding in the second half before Goneva’s clincher.
A delighted Richards said: “What a game, and what a great win. It’s not very often we come down here and win, so everybody is ecstatic with that.
“To be honest we let a couple of tries go begging so it was frustrating in that sense, but more than anything we are pleased because we deserved it on the night.
“We made an unbelievable start through Joel’s try, and then were probably a little unlucky to have Marcus Watson’s try chalked off by the TMO. That brought a sense of frustration, Northampton showed a bit of life at the start of the second half despite having Kieran Brookes sent off but we snatched it at the end.
“Opeti came on and gave us that momentum five metres from their line, and it was goodnight when Niki grabbed the intercept at the end.
“We said in the first few minutes of the second half we were going to play a more territorial game, but we didn’t quite do that. We turned over a few balls which we didn’t want to but we fought our way back into the game, and eventually got the win we wanted.”
Already turning his attention to the next assignment against a former club of his on December 4 at Kingston Park Stadium, the Falcons boss said: “Without a doubt we are looking forward to the home game against Harlequins next Sunday. We are putting a plan together to deliver another result, and to continue the momentum we are building.”
Tickets for the visit of Harlequins are available by calling 0871 226 6060, clicking here or from the stadium in person during opening hours.