Newcastle took a massive step towards Guinness Premiership safety as they got the better of Gloucester at Kingston Park.
This was a must-win game for the Falcons if they were to avoid the end-of-season Guinness Premiership relegation dogfight. And, having won just one home game in the Guinness Premiership this season, they finally got their act together with fly-half Jimmy Gopperth kicking 20 points and wing Tom Biggs running in a first-half try.
Both sides started nervously but with positive intentions and it was Newcastle who looked the sharper up front. A driving maul and quick burst by Tane Tu’ipulotu ended in a seventh-minute penalty from Gopperth which gave the Falcons the lead.
Gloucester spurned a great chance to register the opening try when Lesley Vainikolo burst through but Charlie Sharples spilled the ball just metres from the line with no Newcastle player in sight, before Biggs almost went over at the other end after he chased his own kick through.
But Biggs did score when he got on the end of Tu’ipulotu’s pass after the big centre had surged through the Gloucester defence. He was brought down just short of the line but got in his pass for Biggs to cross. Gopperth converted for a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Fly-half Nicky Robinson got Gloucester on the board with a 19th-minute penalty as the Cherry and Whites went up a gear but big tackles from Biggs and Josh Afu on Sharples and Rory Lawson kept them out until Robinson kicked a second penalty after 28 minutes.
Newcastle ended the half on top after several forays through their forwards and Gopperth was off target with a drop goal after Ed Willamson’s surge, but the Kiwi was on the mark with a 39th-minute penalty after some powerful carries from Jon Golding, Williamson and Filipo Levi saw Gloucester penalised for not rolling away in the tackle.
Gopperth stretched Newcastle’s lead to 16-6 two minutes into the second half with a penalty when Gloucester handled in a ruck and another followed in the 51st minute when the Falcons overpowered the visitors’ scrum. But full-back Alex Tait’s knock-on opened the door for Tim Taylor to surge through for a try converted by Robinson in the 60th minute to bring Gloucester back into the game at 19-13.
Gopperth was wide with a long-range penalty attempt but then gave Newcastle breathing space with another big kick in the 65th minute. The former Wellington stand-off then hammered over a 45-metre shot in the 65th minute to put Newcastle 22-13 in front.
The Falcons’ forwards sensed victory and piled in to win another penalty in the 69th minute. Gopperth banging over his sixth three-pointer to seal the win.