Wales international Nicky Robinson grounded the Falcons as he steered Gloucester to a comfortable GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP victory at Kingsholm.
The fly-half kicked five penalties, a drop-goal and a conversion of wing Charlie Sharples’ early try, giving Gloucester only their fourth win of a difficult league campaign.
But the victory was marred by a serious-looking injury to home flanker Akapusi Qera, who left the pitch on a stretcher with his neck in a brace after being treated by paramedics for seven minutes.
Newcastle showed attacking glimpses during the first half through their inventive catalyst Jimmy Gopperth, but they were poised to make the long journey home with just two Gopperth penalties to show for their efforts until substitute Alex Tait touched down during injury time.
Gloucester were quicker in thought and deed around the forward fringes, forcing a succession of penalties that enabled them to stay on the front foot.
While skill levels were generally poor – in keeping with most GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP rugby this season – Gloucester’s win followed a narrow triumph against champions Leicester two weeks ago and their losing bonus point at Harlequins.
And that solid mini run should at least increase confidence levels ahead of vital back-to-back Heineken Cup appointments with Glasgow during the next fortnight.
Newcastle, though, have now lost successive GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP games following three wins in a row – and rugby director Steve Bates could have few complaints after seeing his team finish second best.
Gloucester welcomed back lock Alex Brown for his first appearance since he suffered a dislocated thumb two months ago, while England back-row forward Luke Narraway also featured.
Narraway had been sidelined all season following summer surgery on a bulging disc in his back, and he was named among the Gloucester replacements.
Newcastle showed five changes to the side crushed at home by Northampton last time out, including a start for Springboks back Gcobani Bobo, who featured in midfield alongside Tane Tu’ipulotu.
Gloucester, beaten seven times from their previous eight starts in all competitions, made a bright start and deservedly went ahead following sustained early pressure.
Aggressive driving work by the forwards punched gaps in Newcastle’s defence, and when Robinson quickly moved possession wide, Sharples crossed on an overlap.
Robinson slotted the touchline conversion, but Newcastle were sparked into life by Gopperth, who booted a quickfire penalty double and then sliced open Gloucester’s defence.
The Falcons were unable to capitalise on New Zealander Gopperth’s vision though, and Gloucester cleared their 22 after a concerted spell of Newcastle pressure.
There was also a fierce dust-up between Qera and Falcons prop Jon Golding for referee Rob Debney to deal with, but the official opted for warnings, rather than cards.
A Robinson penalty edged Gloucester 10-6 ahead, but he missed another chance just before the break before Newcastle blew a glorious scoring chance by knocking on when they had players unmarked right and left of a ruck five metres from the home line.
Gloucester made Newcastle play for their profligacy when Robinson kicked two penalties in three minutes midway through the third quarter.
The Falcons were guilty of some poor technical discipline, and the Gloucester pack did not require a second invitation to start asserting dominance.
Another successful Robinson penalty – his fourth – came when the Falcons forwards again blatantly infringed, yet referee Debney continued to ignore a sin-bin option.
Gloucester then suffered an injury blow when Qera was carried off after a collision with Newcastle number eight Filipo Levi.
A lengthy delay ensued while the prone 25-year-old received medical attention, but it was Gloucester who regrouped quickest after the stoppage.
Narraway replaced Qera, and Gloucester continued to dominate the territorial battle, pinning Newcastle back as conditions deteriorated, content to preserve a commanding 13-point advantage.
A short-range Robinson drop-goal and penalty confirmed Newcastle’s demise, giving him 20 points and leaving the Falcons to reflect on a dismal afternoon when little went right for them.
They went in search of a consolation try as the clock ticked down, and Tait provided it with his fellow replacement Rob Miller adding the conversion.