London Irish avoided their seventh consecutive loss in the Aviva Premiership Rugby with a 23-14 victory over Newcastle at the Madejski Stadium.
The game was lit up by excellent solo tries from opposing fly-halves, Ryan Lamb and Jimmy Gopperth.
The Falcons matched their hosts in the first half and should have been at least level, rather than 10-7 down, at the interval. But, apart from Gopperth, they lacked any creativity and in the second half Irish dominated play and clinched a deserved win thanks to further tries from Clarke Dermody and Seilala Mapusua.
Irish made a quick start and were ahead after only two minutes when Lamb kicked a simple 25-metre penalty after the Falcons were penalised at a ruck. Newcastle soon responded and produced a fine spell of play, recycling the ball through a number of phases which saw them gain position five metres from the home line. The Falcons won the scrum and Gopperth neatly stepped inside Mapusua for a try under the posts which he converted himself.
A knock-on from Newcastle flanker Will Welch allowed Irish an attacking position but, when the visitors were penalised, Lamb was wide with a 30-metre penalty attempt. Minutes later the fly-half was again off target when his kick from a similar range hit a post.
After 20 minutes Irish suffered a major blow when Paul Hodgson went off injured. The scrum-half dived courageously to charge down Gopperth’s clearance kick and was caught on the top of the head by the number 10’s follow-through, causing him to leave the field bleeding heavily.
The home team regained the lead when Lamb spectacularly atoned for his previous misses. From a scrum 40 metres out from the Falcons’ line, he received the ball and danced past two defenders for a solo try which he converted.
Newcastle produced an excellent driving maul which saw Irish concede a penalty but Gopperth was unable to take advantage as his 40-metre kick struck a post to leave Irish 10-7 ahead at the interval.
Topsy Ojo was the most penetrative runner on the field and his 50-metre burst put Irish on the attack early in the second half. The full-back was hauled down from behind by Luke Fielden but moments later Dermody was on hand to drive over from close range for a try which Lamb was unable to convert.
The score was soon followed by another try, this time for Mapusua after fine work from Ojo and replacement Darren Allinson.
Irish were now giving away too many penalties and eventually the referee’s patience became exhausted when he sent substitute Steffon Armitage to the sin bin with 12 minutes remaining. However, it was Irish who collected the next score when replacement Chris Malone kicked an excellent 55-metre penalty to stretch the hosts’ lead.
Gcobani Bobo broke away with the last movement of the match to score a consolation try for the Falcons which Gopperth converted, but it was not enough to secure the visitors a bonus point.