Noah Cato’s second-half try handed Newcastle Falcons their first win in 21 Aviva Premiership Rugby games as they defeated Exeter Chiefs 29-24 in an entertaining encounter at Kingston Park.
The winger cantered over in the 69th minute to nudge his side into a crucial lead after tries either side of the break from Sinoti Sinoti and Tom Catterick had kept the home side in touch against the Chiefs.
Thomas Waldrom opened the scoring for the visitors as early as the fourth minute with Ben White and Henry Slade adding further scores before the break but with Gareth Steenson off target from the kicking tee, missing all three conversions, they could not find the win.
The Chiefs went into the game full of confidence following their start to the season and were given an early present when the Falcons made a mess of the kick-off to gift possession to their opponents.
And they soon capitalised on it – Waldrom going over the try line after a catch and drive from Damian Welch’s line-out, although Steenson’s conversion flew wide in the wind.
Newcastle were on the board on eight minutes however as Juan Socino slotted over his penalty after the Chiefs were penalised for tackling the man without the ball and the fly-half added a second four minutes later for 6-5.
Not to be deterred, Exeter continued to try and play their rugby, with David Ewers and Tom James both making up ground from their own half.
And while the hosts briefly got their hands on the ball, Alex Tait’s spilled pass handed back possession, with Ian Whitten picking up the ball, eventually feeding it outside to White who crossed the try line. Steenson again
missing the conversion to leave the score at 10-6.
Despite it being almost a year since the Falcons last won in the league, Newcastle were right in this game, and when Exeter’s Will Chudley kicked the ball forward, the hosts launched a determined counter attack down the blindside.
Ali Hogg received the ball before timing his pass superbly to Samoan international Sinoti, and although Socino was off target with his conversion, a penalty shortly afterwards left them ahead 14-10.
The match was proving end to end and with half-time approaching, it was the turn of the Chiefs to wrestle the lead back in their favour.
A Steenson break moved them closer to the Newcastle line, and after a period of pressure from the forwards, Steenson again got hold of the ball to feed Slade for the try.
The fly-half would miss the conversion, this time hitting the crossbar, but his side went into the break 15-14 up.
It was first blood Newcastle after the restart however with Socino sending over an early penalty but Steenson then found his range, slotting over two in quick succession to give his side a 24-17 lead on 65 minutes.
However Newcastle refused to bow down and some strong running saw them burst right through the Exeter defence with replacement Catterick awarded the try after consultation with the TMO.
With Socino levelling the scores with his conversion it was all to play for with just over 20 minutes remaining.
And with mistakes creeping in to the Exeter game, the hosts capitalised with Cato going over in the left corner on 69 minutes.
With Socino missing the conversion, the door was still open and Exeter continued to attack but mistakes at key times again let them down, as the Falcons fans finally got the chance to celebrate a win.