This was a match Newcastle never deserved to lose yet almost did, and which lacklustre Gloucester should never have come close to winning, yet almost stole from under the Falcons’ noses.
But after gifting the West Countrymen two criminally soft tries as Gloucester came within seconds of leaving with the spoils, Newcastle once again displayed their now traditional cussedness.Replacement fly-half Joel Hodgson knocked over the winning penalty with the final kick of the game after Newcastle’s pack summoned one colossal last effort and splintered the Gloucester scrum on the visitors’ put-in.
That it should have come so close verged on farcical given Newcastle’s complete domination of territory and possession. “To win in injury-time was great but it should never have got that far considering how much possession we had,” said Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards. “We almost rued our missed chances.”
Veteran fly-half Mike Delany missed an early penalty but Juan Pablo Socino put Newcastle ahead after 30 minutes. He had been held up over the line, but when Ally Hogg moved the ball from the subsequent scrum, the Argentine made no mistake, Delany adding the conversion.
Gloucester, having been astonishingly diffident for virtually the whole half, finally came alive just before the break. A cute break from centre Mark Atkinson was followed by another from Billy Twelvetrees whose scoring pass to Atkinson was forward. But moments later the ball was spun to wing Jonny May who simply skipped inside powder-puff tackles from Alex Tait and Niki Goneva.
Quite what Richards must have thought about their apathetic efforts is easy to imagine, and his mood wouldn’t have been improved by Twelvetrees’s touchline conversion. Despite a one-sided half the two teams turned around level.
A long-range penalty from Hodgson after the break was more than cancelled out when Hogg waited for a grubber from Tom Marshall to cross the line before touching it down, only for the onrushing Gloucester fullback to do it for him. Twelvetrees added the extras.
After upping the tempo and bringing on linebreakers like Sonatane Takalua, Hodgson and Sinoti Sinoti, Newcastle drew a penalty, Hodgson kicking Newcastle back to within a point. And then came his last gasp match-winning cameo.