Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Just Denied a Win at the Death

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Falcons Just Denied a Win at the Death

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Smith

Newcastle Falcons 9 Harlequins 9 NEWCASTLE Falcons ate into the gap between themselves and Premiership safety but were denied maximum points in the cruellest of fashions.

A Nick Evans penalty with the last kick of the game saw the league leaders snatch a share of the points, matching countryman Jimmy Gopperth's hat-trick of three-pointers.

The upshot is just four points now stand between Newcastle and fellow strugglers London Wasps, although the draw felt like a defeat with Gopperth having pinched what looked like a home victory just nine minutes from time.

Wasps have a chance to fire their riposte at home to London Irish this afternoon, but anxiety at the once-mighty capital club must now be ringing loudly as the Falcons' fightback gathers pace.

Hooker Rob Vickers led the side out in recognition of his 100th appearance for the club but, within four minutes, they trailed as Greg Goosen over-cooked a tactical punt and put his side under considerable pressure with a scrum-back inside their own half.

Euan Murray's injury-enforced withdrawal before kick-off de-powered the home front-row, and from the resulting penalty Evans slotted over a routine three points as the set-piece went to ground.

Playing with a greater freedom, Newcastle looked to hold on to possession much more than their previous outing - a 42-15 defeat at Leicester last weekend where boot-on-ball had been the predominant feature.

Their increased pressure was brought to bear on the scoreboard as Gopperth levelled matters with a solidly-struck penalty from out on the left after the league leaders collapsed a maul 25 metres out.

Solid positioning from England fullback Mike Brown thwarted repeated dabs in behind the Londoners' defence and the Falcons' cause was done no favours as Pilgrim was sin-binned for a tug on chasing centre Jordan Turner-Hall as Brown raced free.

Evans thumped the woodwork from the resulting penalty, and pre-match talk of tightened home disciplined was proving hollow as the whistle of referee Andrew Small peeped repeatedly to mark infringement after infringement.

Ugo Monye escaped what should have been a certain yellow card for an obvious trip on Gopperth from a counter down the right, but a ten-minute injury stoppage for visiting hooker Chris Brooker took the wind out of both teams' sails after a badly-dislocated knee at the bottom of a ruck demanded attention. Newcastle threatened to draw first blood after the resumption with a 40-metre penalty, but the two-time Golden Boot winner repeated the feat of his countryman Evans by rattling the post.

Fellow Kiwi Jeremy Manning - filling in at scrum-half with Chris Pilgrim in the bin - dived over the try-line before the half-hour after plucking an up-and-under out of the air, but the celebrations did not last for long as play was pulled back for an earlier knock-on. …

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