London Irish head coach Tom Coventry admits his side were nearly the architects of their own downfall after they picked up the second Aviva Premiership Rugby win of his tenure at the expense of Newcastle Falcons.
It could go down as a pivotal win for Exiles as they leapfrogged Newcastle into 11th place, though it got too close for comfort in the end.
Shane Geraghty’s second-half introduction provided a spark as he provided assists for Alex Lewington – straight from the restart – and Topsy Ojo within the space of five minutes.
Allied to two Chris Noakes penalties, those efforts put the Exiles 20-0 up, but Nili Latu and Marcus Watson crossed in response as Falcons fought back to within five points.
Newcastle battered the door down before Irish turned the ball over in the last play of the game, and Coventry says the performance underlines why his team remain a work in progress – despite moving off the foot of Aviva Premiership Rugby.
“There’s a lot of relief in the changing room,” said Coventry. “But if you had told me on Monday that we were going to win, I would have been pretty happy. What’s disappointing is that we had such a nice lead and we weren’t able to manage our way through it. I suppose that’s a sign of where we’re at as a team.
“We don’t win a lot, and then when you get a nice buffer, being able to control yourself till the finish line would have been nice.
“We made it, through our own fault again, a battle and it was hard work to finish the game. It was pretty difficult to watch, I was squirming up there in my seat waiting for the final whistle to go.”
Andy Goode, who signed a short-term contract for Newcastle last month, bagged a conversion and a penalty, becoming the fourth player to score points in Aviva Premiership Rugby for five different clubs.
However, the result is all the more disappointing for bottom-place Falcons after their superb victory over Bath Rugby last week – though director of rugby Dean Richards pointed to a lengthy injury list.
“I feel sorry for (backs coach) Dave Walder in many ways,” he said. “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
“London Irish didn’t look like scoring (a try) other than on those two occasions and that was the disappointing thing.”
London Irish: Ojo, Lewington, Hearn, Williams (Mulchrone, 66), Tikoirotuma, Noakes (Geraghty, 40), McKibbin; Court (Smallbone, 69), Paice (Cruse, 71), Franks, Symons, Lloyd (Trayfoot, 77), Sinclair, Narraway, Treviranus (Cowan, 66).
Not used: Aulika, Allinson.
Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley, Tait, Harris, Pablo Socino, Watson, Willis (Goode, 56), Young; Vickers, Lawson (McGuigan, 47), Ryan (Vea, 47), Wilson, Robinson, Welch, Latu (Clever, 66), Hogg
Not used: Rogers, Botha, Booth, Agulla.
Tries: Lewington, Ojo
Conversions: Geraghty 2
Penalties: Noakes 2
Tries: Latu, Watson
Referee: JP Doyle
Attendance: 5, 558
Boxing Day Sale! Click here to grab a bargain with 20% off tickets to the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 28 May at Twickenham.