Newcastle Falcons ended 2012 on a high with victory over London Scottish in the RFU Championship at Kingston Park.
Four penalties from the boot of Joel Hodgson secured the win as the unbeaten run continues on Tyneside.
Played in gale-force conditions, the Falcons managed to weather the elements to come through unscathed against a dogged and committed Scottish outfit.
The visitors were first on the score sheet thanks to a James Love penalty after the Falcons infringed at the ruck. Newcastle knocked on from the kick-off and Scottish took full advantage with a series of drives, before being awarded the penalty by referee Matthew Carley.
Newcastle were on level terms moments later when fly-half Hodgson converted a simple penalty from in front of the posts with six minutes on the clock.
Hodgson had the crowd on their feet from the restart with a line break that very nearly produced the first try of the contest. Dropping his shoulder and side-stepping his marker, the Newcastle-born academy product breached the Londoners rearguard, before offloading to Richard Mayhew who was thwarted ten metres from the line.
Midway through the first period Scottish winger Dave McCall broke clear on the overlap down the far side, but a last ditch cover tackle from Hodgson, who was making quite an impression in front of the Sky cameras saved a certain try. From the breakdown the Falcons were awarded a penalty and a chance to clear their lines with the score still evenly poised at 3-3.
Seven minutes from the break Love put his side 6-3 ahead with a 35-metre penalty, his fourth attempt at goal of the afternoon. Missing with his two previous attempts against the wind, Love managed to get enough purchase on the kick this time.
Hodgson made it all square almost immediately with a penalty in front of goal, and despite a charge towards the London try line on the stroke of half-time, both sets of players went into the changing rooms on equal terms.
Within a minute of the restart, Love edged his side 9-6 in front with a well-executed penalty, before Hodgson made it nine apiece with the boot. Weathering the swirling wind, the No.10 duly slotted home a 25-metre penalty for the Falcons to set the platform and kick-on.
However the Falcons were dealt a blow on 55 minutes when Samoan international Taiasina Tu’ifua was sin-binned for an off-the-ball incident.
The game became heated with both sides at logger heads following Tu’ifua’s dismissal. Dean Richards’ men rallied and took the lead by virtue of another Hodgson penalty. Keeping his cool under significant pressure, the 20-year-old arrowed the penalty between the uprights for a 12-9 advantage.
Despite being a man light, the Falcons pushed forward in search of the first try of the day with Jamie Helleur and Ryan Shortland carrying the ball aggressively. Hodgson had the chance to extend the Falcons’ lead with a penalty to the left of the posts with a quarter of the game left. However, he could only skew his kick wide in front of the South Stand.
With two minutes left on the clock the northeasterners showed real endeavour in attack as they looked for a try with the final whistle looming.
The Kingston Park faithful thought their side had conjured up a pushover try from the lineout, only for Mr Carley to go upstairs to the TMO and chalk off the try.
From the resulting five-metre scrum, the Falcons ushered the ball towards the line, and with the whitewash beckoning, Tu’ifua’s pick-up was knocked forward.
This paled into insignificance, and with the game now into stoppage time, the referee blew up and the Falcons notched up their sixteenth straight win in all competitions.
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Scott MacLeod, 19 Chris York, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Waisea Luveniyali, 22 Alex Crockett
London Scottish: 15 Jim Thompson, 14 James Love, 13 Oli Grove, 12 Andy Reay, 11 Dave McCall, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Ross Samson, 1 Mark Irish, 2 Adam Kwasnicki, 3 Colin Quigley, 4 Paul Spivey, 5 Tyler Hotson, 6 Ben Russell, 7 Chevy Pennycook, 8 Mark Bright (c)
Replacements: 16 Harry Allen, 17 Billy Moss, 18 Alex MacKenzie, 19 Josh Thomas-Brown, 20 Lewis Calder, 21 Jamie Stevenson, 22 PJ Gidlow