Dean Richards praised the battling qualities of his Newcastle Falcons side following Friday’s pulsating Aviva Premiership victory over Sale Sharks.
Rob Vickers’ late try handed the Falcons a 35-30 triumph which keeps their semi-final hopes alive, Newcastle letting a 25-0 lead slip through their fingers before shading it at the death.
The director of rugby said afterwards: “To come away with five points and restrict them to one is very important for us, and it’s the never-say-die attitude of the players which pleases me the most.
“Somebody told me today we’re unbeaten at home since the end of November, which says a lot, and it’s testament to the crowd. Friday night football here is really something special, it’s a hell of an atmosphere and people are loving it more and more.”
On the match itself, Richards said: “There are no easy games at this time of year when you’re in the position we’re in, and when you’re playing against a quality side like Sale Sharks.
“We have Leicester and Wasps as our last two regular-season games, so they’re all quality teams, but I’m sure they’ll be saying the same about us. There are areas we need to work on but that’s always going to be the case, and it was always going to be a close game in my mind.
“Sale started really poorly, I’m sure they won’t mind me saying that, but they had a purple patch during that middle period and got right back in it. We threw on our subs for the last quarter and I think it was the case that our bench were better than their bench in terms of impact, and they really turned the game for us.”
Asked about the impact of man-of-the-match Gary Graham in his first game since early February, Richards said: “Gary was outstanding but he tired very quickly, as you would expect when he has only played 15 minutes of rugby in the last three months.
“With Will Welch getting sin-binned and Gary blowing pretty hard we had it all to do, and a number of the guys were outstanding. We’d looked tired when we played at Worcester last week but I don’t think that was the case here, the boys who came in all played well and we looked fresher.”
With play-off rugby looming on the horizon, the Falcons boss added: “It keeps the season very much alive, and it will all come down to the last home game on May 5 against Wasps.
“We’ll see what happens from there, and we have a European semi-final next Friday which is another great prospect. The games don’t get any easier but that’s what we’re here for, and why we enjoy it so much.”
Tickets for the visit of Wasps on May 5 are available by clicking here.