Dean Richards admitted it was a ‘special night’ on Friday as Ally Hogg’s last-minute try and Sonatane Takulua’s conversion ended Newcastle Falcons’ 20-year wait for a victory at Welford Road.
The 25-23 triumph over Leicester Tigers leaves the Falcons firmly in the Aviva Premiership semi-final picture, Vereniki Goneva having scored their other two tries on a night of high drama.
Richards said: “We mucked up with our performance at Gloucester last week and the accuracy wasn’t where we wanted it to be, but credit to the lads for finding a way to win it.
“Leicester starved us of first-phase possession, and if we’re to do anything in terms of winning things we need our set-piece to function much better, but other than that we coped with them pretty well. We lost three boys early on with fairly serious injuries but it didn’t seem to faze us, the boys dug in and they knew they had to fight hard. It was always going to be tense, and so it proved.”
Book-ending the game with tries in the second and 80th minutes, Richards said: “Our half-time chat was really positive at 13-13, we just sat down and talked about how we were going to win the game. We knew it was going to be difficult, especially with losing the lads through injury, and it was a case of who was willing to tough it out the longest.
“Our squad has a huge amount of character, and we showed it again. That runs right through the club from the players to the medical staff, conditioners, analysts, community team, commercial staff and everyone who plays any role whatsoever in the club. We’ve all got the same mind-set, and that’s what’s at the heart of everything we’re doing. We don’t have the biggest budget, not by any stretch, but you can’t buy what we have.”
Relying on another late winner to seal the result, the Falcons boss said: “Even when we went 10 points down we always felt that if we got down there we would score, which ultimately we did.
“We could quite easily have kicked the points at the end but it was the players’ call to go for the try, and that says a lot about them. As a consequence we got the win we wanted, and I’m honestly delighted for this group of lads.
“I’m normally fairly calm but we were all going mad in that coaching box, and that’s what this game does to you. It’s the first time in more than 20 years we’ve won in Leicester, and the last time was my final game for Tigers. Bob Dwyer picked me in the second row and we lost, which tells you all you need to know, but tonight was a special night.”
Saturday's home game against Wasps is officially a 10,100 sell-out. For those unable to get tickets it is being shown live on BT Sport.