Leeds grabbed a Guinness Premiership relegation lifeline today when they edged a 16-15 win at Newcastle.
The Falcons defied the freezing weather to get the game played, with squads of volunteers and club officials at Kingston Park from 7.30am for the third day running to clear snow off the pitch.
They were rewarded as the club’s biggest crowd of the season turned up despite driving snow and sub-zero temperatures – but there was no victory as Leeds hung on after leading 16-9 at half-time.
Former Leeds player Rob Vickerman made an explosive early break backed up by Charlie Amesbury as Newcastle made all the early running. Jimmy Gopperth missed a fourth-minute penalty but was on target three minutes later as Leeds were over the ball again.
Leeds bounced back when Seru Rabeni cut through despite a hint of crossing and Newcastle eventually conceded a 12th-minute penalty right in front of their posts which Ceiron Thomas converted to level the scores.
Newcastle found themselves under some pressure as Thomas probed with some clever kicking and players found it hard to keep their footing on a greasy pitch.
However, Micky Young’s breakaway almost led to a try with Tane Tu’ipulotu’s crossfield kick just eluding Alex Tait – then Josh Afu lost the ball on the Leeds line after a bullocking run by Filipo Levi.
It was Leeds’ turn to feel the pressure and they conceded a penalty at the scrum and Gopperth kicked his second penalty in the 24th minute.
Newcastle conceded a penalty from the restart by coming in from the side and Thomas levelled the scores again – but another surging run from Amesbury led to Gopperth’s third successful penalty when Leeds strayed offside following Young’s chip and chase in the 32nd minute.
Again Newcastle conceded another penalty at the restart and Thomas made it 9-9 with the kick and then Leeds put together a terrific series of drives which ended with Alfie To’oala forcing his way over for a try which Joe Ford converted to give the visitors a 16-9 interval lead.
Gcobani Bobo’s weaving run led to an early second half penalty which Gopperth kicked for 16-12 but Leeds looked mightily impressive on the forward drive and Newcastle’s tackling was shaky as they were penned in their own 22.
It took a big call from referee David Rose to relieve the pressure when he penalised Leeds for dropping the scrum right on the Falcons line.
Gopperth’s chip though led to a 71st sin-binning of Henry Paul for obstruction and Gopperth’s fifth penalty cut Leeds’ lead to 16-15 with just under 10 minutes left.
Newcastle conceded a penalty at the restart for the third time but Ford missed the kick at goal to set Leeds nerves jangling. And in a frantic closing few minutes Gopperth spurned a drop goal chance to run the ball – but the move broke down and when Tait knocked on the game was over.