Head coach Tom Coventry wished he could have sent the London Irish faithful home happy, after his side slipped to a 13-6 defeat to Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.
The Aviva Premiership Rugby’s most northerly ground is over 300 miles from Irish’s home at the Madejski Stadium, but that didn’t stop hundreds of Irish fans making plenty of noise in their team’s crunch clash.
The Exiles picked up a losing bonus point but fall seven points behind Newcastle with two rounds to go in their bid not to finish at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings.
“We said in the changing rooms, we’re going to be defined about how we get back on our feet, show some character, about how we take our losses and how we rebuild again,” said Coventry.
“That’s the sign of a good athlete and also the sign of a good club with good supporters.
“The supporters who were here made plenty of noise and they were still proud of us regardless of the points we didn’t come up with today.
“The camp is very disappointed, down and dejected. We had an opportunity in the second spell that we didn’t take and I think I’ve said that a few times this year it’s a sign that we’re not very confident.
“When you’re not winning a lot of football you need to take those opportunities and you build on the confidence of doing that before.”
The vocal Irish following contributed to Newcastle’s biggest attendance of the season and the majority of the 7,756 fans went home happy after Marcus Watson’s try prove decisive.
Watson latched onto a loose ball from Irish fly-half Greig Tonks and sprinted 50m to touch down between the posts in the 24th minute for the game’s only try.
But despite the win, Newcastle’s director of rugby Dean Richards refused to get carried away and expressed his disappointment at his side’s performance.
“The boys have come off saying we can play a lot than that and we’re a bit disappointed we didn’t have the cutting edge we wanted,” he said.
“We only scored the one try and from that side of things I thought we were disappointing on the day, but at the same time they didn’t score a try and defensively we were pretty sound.
“The mood all week has been really good, the boys have been really focused – it’s probably the best week of training we’ve had.
“On the day we didn’t quite string it together in terms of what we wanted to achieve, but having said that we’ve come out and got the result we wanted.
“We are confident we can get something out of the last two games and the goal is to do that.”
Newcastle Falcons: Hammersley; Tait, Tiesi (Harris 40), Socino, Watson; Delany, Young (Takulua 40); Vickers, McGuigan (Lawson 69), Vea (Cusack 69), Green (Hogg 69), Robinson, M Wilson, Welch, Latu
Not used: Rogers, Botha, Willis
London Irish: Maitland; Lewington (McKibbin 69), Hearn (Tikoirtuma 23), Williams, Fenby; Tonks (Geraghty 33), Steele; Court (Smallbone 40), Paice (Cruse 69), Aulika (Halavatau 60), Lloyd (Sexton 66), Symons, Sinclair (McCusker 61), Cowan, Narraway
Penalties: Delany, Socino
Penalties: Tonks 2
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Attendance: 7, 756