Gloucester 40 Newcastle Falcons 33: Five tries as Falcons hit late rhythm

Newcastle Falcons salvage a valuable pair of bonus points as Gloucester let a 30-point lead evaporate into seven

Dan Mullan/Getty Images Alex Tait of Newcastle Falcons beats the tackle of Rob Cook of Gloucester
Alex Tait of Newcastle Falcons beats the tackle of Rob Cook of Gloucester

Such is the paradox of watching Newcastle Falcons feelings do not always match facts.

Dean Richards’ charges skipped off the Kingsholm field after a remarkable comeback from 30 points down saw them claiming an unthinkable pair of losing bonus points with four fully-deserved tries inside 20 mesmeric minutes.

Joel Hodgson’s touchline conversion to clinch the losing bonus, into the wind and in front of the infamous Shed terrace, wrapped up a finish which had all the emotion of a cup final triumph – the visitors now 12 points clear of the drop with just five Premiership games to go.

The manner in which their young bucks had opened up Gloucester’s defence suggested brighter things to come and there is no reason why that should not become the case down the road. Yet if you are in the business of cold, hard and current stats, the Kingsholm loss equals Newcastle’s worst ever Premiership run, with 11 defeats now from 11 since their last league win against London Irish in October.

Worcester’s ongoing travails have ensured the Falcons sit well above the trap door despite a points tally two worse than at the same stage of their relegation season two years ago, but it would be churlish to play down the spirit and skill which saw them battling back from the brink in the West Country.

“I was delighted with how we came back,” said Richards, whose side were level at 7-7 on 25 minutes but 37-7 down after an hour.

“It was a game of four quarters, in some respects. In the first and last quarters we turned up. In the first we created a lot of opportunities but didn’t convert them and in the final quarter we nailed those chances. During that middle half we just didn’t turn up and it was when the youngsters came on we added a little bit of pace and vibrancy.

“George McGuigan, Warren Fury, Joel Hodgson and Scotty Wilson brought something to the game which enabled us to nail our opportunities and the beauty was we finished what we had set out to.”

The early signs had seemed positive enough, Premiership debutant Zach Kibirige causing chaos with a string of fleet-footed breaks before being carried off with a leg injury which saw him taken to a local hospital. His side trailed on 18 minutes when Tongan powerhouse Sione Kalamafoni reached out an arm from the floor for the opening try, but the Falcons did not go into their shells as a floated pass to numbers out wide saw back-rower Chris York race into the right corner.

The former Harlequin was a man possessed in a rare league start, but the parity did not last long as livewire full-back Rob Cook scooted down the right wing to put the Cherry and Whites in front.

His penalty and conversion took the interval lead to 17-7, former Newcastle skipper James Hudson charging down a clearance kick and scoring Gloucester’s third try within three minutes of the resumption.

Mike Tindall and Jonny May added touch-downs before the most remarkable of turnarounds, Hodgson introduced among a raft of changes and making an instant difference by taking flat ball to the gain-line.

That interested Gloucester’s fringe defenders, Newcastle’s offloading game bringing support runners into play as York put McGuigan away for a try in the left corner. Hodgson stroked over the conversion and further pressure delivered a line-out five metres from the line which saw Andy Saull driven over for try number three.

The four-try bonus arrived on 71 minutes when Alex Tait hit an outside line to arc in down the left, a madcap finish ending with Noah Cato’s try in the opposite corner and Hodgson’s touchline conversion for a second bonus consolation.

“It was bizarre,” said Gloucester boss Nigel Davies, searching for some answers. “For 65 minutes we played great rugby, then for 15 minutes we fell off the side of a cliff. You have to maintain a level.”

NEWCASTLE FALCONS: A Tait, N Cato, G Tiesi, D Barnes, Z Kibirige (L Smith, 38), P Godman (J Hodgson, 61), M Blair (W Fury, 58); R Vickers, S Lawson (G McGuigan, 58), O Tomaszczyk (S Wilson, 58), S MacLeod, F McKenzie, W Welch (captain, R Mayhew, 31), A Saull, C York.

Falcons scorers – Tries: C York, G McGuigan, A Saull, A Tait, N Cato. Conversions: P Godman, J Hodgson 2.

GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, H Trinder, M Tindall (captain), M Thomas (J May, 57), R Mills (F Burns, 61), D Robson (J Cowan, 21); N Wood (D Murphy, 53), D Dawidiuk (H Edmonds, 53), S Knight (S Puafisi, 45), E Stooke, J Hudson, S Kalamafoni (W James, 70), M Kvesic, G Evans (B Morgan, 58).

Sin-bin: J Hudson (14), M Kvesic (71).

Gloucester scorers – Tries: S Kalamafoni, R Cook, J Hudson, M Tindall, J May. Conversions: R Cook 3. Penalties: R Cook 2.

Referee: W Barnes. Attendance: 13,015.

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