Director of rugby Dean Richards believes Newcastle Falcons’ back-line will start firing once key players return from injury after his side’s comeback against London Irish fell just short.
Newcastle together did not put together a scoring move until Nili Latu crossed in the 54th minute before Andy Goode – on his return to Aviva Premiership Rugby after retiring over the summer – kicked a penalty.
Marcus Watson’s converted try brought Newcastle back to within five, but the Exiles already had two Chris Noakes penalties and Alex Lewington and Topsy Ojo tries in the bank to hold on by 20-15.
"I feel sorry for (backs coach) Dave Walder in many ways," said Richards. "You look at the guys who are injured, our backs are firing but we're not firing as well as they could do,
"We're probably lacking that little bit of X Factor which you get with guys like (Alesana) Tuilagi, Sinoti Sinoti, Mike Delany, (Gonzalo) Tiesi, (Sonatane) Takulua and (Ruki) Tipuna.
"So we've got a full international backline which is out at this moment in time and even though we scored twice and created four more opportunities, we're still not scoring and converting as many as we want to.”
It saw the Exiles leapfrog Newcastle into 11th place, and Wasps are also on the move in Aviva Premiership Rugby after their stunning 32-22 turnaround against Worcester Warriors.
Andy Symons was so nearly the hero for Worcester, standing in as kicker to collect a 17-point haul, but Wasps recovered from nine points down.
Frank Halai and then Sailosi Tagicakibau secured both the win and the bonus point to send their side back into the top half.
"We got out of jail as, with eight minutes to go, a betting man would have clearly put money on them,” director of rugby Dai Young admitted.
"I'm frustrated with our lack of accuracy as we had lots of possession but we didn't create enough and I'm pleased we didn't give up."
Saturday conjured up another two Aviva Premiership Rugby classics, as Harlequins first completed a dramatic 29-23 victory over the previously-unbeaten Saracens.
It was nip and tuck in the first half with two converted tries apiece – Rob Buchanan and Jack Clifford scoring for Harlequins, while Neil de Kock and Billy Vunipola crossed for the visitors.
A Nick Evans penalty separated the two teams at the break but Owen Farrell begin to pull Saracens away with two early penalties after the break.
But it was to be Ben Botica, on for Evans, who would prevail with the boot by kicking three penalties as Saracens counted the cost of a Rhys Gill red card just past the hour mark.
James Horwill then made the result sure with a try in the 79th minute, leaving Harlequins in third place and director of rugby Conor O’Shea a happy man.
"What a game of rugby that was," he said. "It's what the Aviva Premiership Rugby is all about; the Stoop was rocking.
"It's only game nine but I just love the bite that was out there. We said we wanted to be physical, but we were also enterprising.”
It looked as if Leicester Tigers were heading for a rout over Northampton Saints before finally putting down their fierce rivals 30-27 thanks to a last-gasp Freddie Burns kick.
Tigers had stormed into a 21-0 lead through Matt Smith, Lachlan McCaffrey and Owen Williams, but JJ Hanrahan’s penalty and a Teimana Harrison converted try gave Northampton hope at half-time.
George North cut the gap down upon the resumption and, if not for two for Burns penalties in between, Saints would have been ahead after Jamie Gibson’s 65th-minute try.
A Stephen Myler penalty then levelled the scores with five minutes to go, but Burns was the hero with the last action of the game.
Leicester and England also received a further boost with a return to action for Manu Tuilagi, and boss Richard Cockerill said: "Good sides win when they do some average things, and we did some average things today.
“But we found a way to win, however fortuitous that may or may not have been.
"(Tuilagi) needs to play for Leicester, we need to get him fit and make sure he is 100 per cent right before he starts playing Test matches."
And Exeter Chiefs cut the gap at the top down to three points after grinding out a 19-10 victory against Gloucester Rugby.
In torrid conditions, Thomas Waldrom rumbled over twice in the space of four minutes before Olly Woodburn added another try.
At 19-0 down the Cherry and Whites were always facing an uphill battle, and despite a Greig Laidlaw penalty and Charle Sharples’s converted try in the second half, could not make up the ground.
London Irish 20 Newcastle Falcons 15
Tries: Lewington, Ojo
Conversions: Geraghty 2
Penalties: Noakes 2
Tries: Latu, Watson
Referee: JP Doyle
Attendance: 5, 558
Wasps 32 Worcester Warriors 22
Tries: Myall, Thompson, Halai, Tagicakibau
Conversions: Gopperth 3
Penalties: Gopperth 2
Penalties: Symons 5
Referee: Matt Carley
Leicester Tigers 30 Northampton Saints 27
Tries: Smith, McCaffrey, Williams
Conversions: Williams 3
Penalties: Burns 3
Tries: Harrison, North, Gibson
Conversions: Hanrahan 2, Myler
Penalties: Hanrahan, Myler
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Harlequins 29 Saracens 23
Tries: Buchanan, Clifford, Horwill
Penalties: Evans, Botica 3
Tries: de Kock, B Vunipola
Penalties: Farrell 3
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Exeter Chiefs 19 Gloucester Rugby 10
Tries: Waldrom 2, Woodburn
Conversions: Steenson 2
Referee: Ian Tempest