Newcastle Falcons players celebrate George McGuigan’s late try
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Newcastle 22 Gloucester 10
These are changed times at Kingston Park where 10-man safety-first rugby is no longer the order of the day, and, to judge by this ruthless yet entertaining win over Gloucester, expansive ambition is now back in vogue. Even more importantly, so is winning, with a fifth win in six matches propelling the Falcons to the top of the Premiership – albeit only briefly – in some style.
On the basis of this performance, no-one will relish coming to this corner of the North East, especially in the sort of Baltic conditions witnessed this weekend. But it says much for the desire of the whole club that every player not named in the match squad took part in a snow-clearing exercise that started at 4.30am in a desperate effort to ensure this game went ahead.
Those Falcons who did play made it worthwhile. They were gritty in defence and well drilled at the set-piece and breakdown, where Mark Wilson and Gary Graham were once again outstanding, Newcastle were not always at their best yet they still eked out another precious victory.
Indeed, Newcastle led from the off, opening the scoring after just four minutes with a wonderfully opportunistic try. Gloucester had prised open the Falcons defence and Alex Craig looked as if he was about to go over when he was pulled down just short and stripped of the ball by Tom Penny. The ball was instantly spirited away to Adam Radwan on the touchline, the speedy wing going the length of the pitch, stepping inside Jonny May on halfway, to open the scoring.
After Gloucester’s Lloyd Evans missed a sitter from in front of the posts, the Falcons extended their lead with a clever try from Matias Orlando. Once again Gloucester played a major part in their downfall, first diving over the top at a ruck to allow Brett Connon to kick the home side down into the red zone. Then, after the ball had been moved infield, Matt Garvey anticipated the ball being moved away from the ruck and abandoned his position guarding its base, allowing Orlando to scoot through to make it 12-0.
Yet just as the match looked to be slipping away, Gloucester dragged themselves back into contention. Their forwards did the damage, driving inwards from a line-out before Jonny May picked up and dived over from close range, his first try for the Cherry and Whites since May 2017.
Newcastle should have extended their lead moments before half-time, only for Toby Flood to turn down a straightforward penalty and go to the corner before their line-out drive was held up. The profligacy of turning down three easy points was demonstrated soon after the interval when Evans knocked over a penalty to make it 12-10, but Newcastle were to make amends.
With Flood off, Connon missed a long-range touchline penalty with eight minutes to go, but when Gloucester infringed in front of the posts with five minutes to go Connon made no mistake. A try from replacement hooker George McGuigan in stoppage time gave the Falcons a comfortable but deserved winning margin and denied Gloucester a losing bonus point.
Newcastle Falcons: T Penny; A Radwan, M Orlando, T Flood (G Wacokecoke, 63), B Stevenson; B Connon, S Stuart (L Schreuder, 61); T Davison ( (A Brocklebank, 65), J Blamire (G McGuigan, 65), L Mulipola (M Tampin, 65), G Peterson, M Fuser, S Robinson ( (P van der Walt, 68), M Wilson (captain), G Graham.
Gloucester: K Moyle (L Rees-Zammit, 70); L Rees-Zammit (S Carreras, 66), C Harris (B Twelvetrees, 40), M Atkinson, J May; L Evans, J Simpson (C Chapman, 62); V Rapava-Ruskin (J Ford-Robinson, 65), J Hanson (H Walker, 64), F Balmain (A Saville, 68), M Garvey, M Alemanno, A Craig (J Gibson, 65), L Ludlow (capt), R Ackermann (S Nagle-Taylor, 70).
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Scorers: try Radwan 5-0; try Orlando 10-0; con Flood 12-0; try May 12-5; con Evans 12-7; pen Evans 12-10; pen Connon 15-10; try McGuigan 20-10; con Connon 22-10.