|London Irish: (14) 31|
|Tries: Creevy, Stokes, Rona, Matu’u Cons: Jackson 4 Pen: Jackson|
|Newcastle: (8) 22|
|Tries: Stevenson, Stuart, Graham Cons: Hodgson 2 Pen: Hodgson|
London Irish held off a second-half Newcastle Falcons fightback to claim their first league win since November.
The Exiles were leading 24-8 with 10 minutes left but Newcastle battled back to within two points through converted scores from Sam Stuart and Gary Graham.
Replacement hooker Motu Matu’u’s bonus-point try with three minutes remaining eventually saw off the Falcons.
Agustin Creevy, James Stokes and Curtis Rona crossed earlier for Irish, with Ben Stevenson replying for Newcastle.
Irish’s previous league win came in their opening game at the Brentford Community Stadium against Leicester Tigers on 29 November and they had to wait until the 18th minute to open the scoring.
A high tackle allowed Paddy Jackson to kick to the corner and after winning the resulting lineout, Argentine hooker Creevy crashed over from close range.
The Exiles had their second try shortly before the half-hour mark, with the ball worked well through the midfield, creating an overlap which allowed Stokes to acrobatically dot down, having been called into the team as a late replacement for injured Ollie Hassell-Collins.
It was vital for the Falcons to get off the mark before the break and they duly delivered when Stevenson collected a long pass from Joel Hodgson to cross.
But they suffered a blow when full-back Tom Penny was shown a yellow card for a late challenge on his opposite number Tom Parton early in the second period, which the Falcons felt should have resulted in a head injury assessment.
Irish took full advantage, scoring 10 unanswered points with the extra man, including a converted Rona try, to give themselves a 16-point cushion.
Newcastle kept going and after scoring twice in five minutes as the clock ticked down, through replacement scrum-half Stuart and back rower Graham, they were suddenly sensing an unlikely win.
Their hopes were finally dashed when an infringement led to Matu’u being the beneficiary of the driving maul to settle the game and hand the Falcons only their second defeat of the Premiership campaign.
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney:
“In that 10 minutes before half-time, Newcastle came back into it and there were one or two errors that helped to get them into a good position.
“That was an area that we had to look at in the second half. We felt we had to start doing a bit more of what we were doing earlier in the first half.
“In the second half, as well, Newcastle fought their way right back into it, but we managed to show some composure at the end.”
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards:
“We went behind early on, which meant we were chasing the game. We were behind and that affected our control of the game as a whole.
“For the first 65 minutes, we couldn’t control the game – the way we played it, how we played it, the pace of the game – and it came back to bite us.
“We struggled to get back into the groove and that cost us, but it’s nothing that we can’t put right in a short space of time.”
London Irish: Parton; Stokes, Rona, Meakes, Loader; Jackson, Phipps; Goodrick-Clarke, Creevy, Kepu, Mafi, Simmons, Rogerson (capt), O’Brien, Tuisue.
Replacements: Matu’u, Dell, Chawatama, Coleman, Donnell, Cowan, Meehan, Hepetema.
Newcastle Falcons: Penny; Radwan, Orlando, Flood (co-capt), Stevenson; Hodgson, Schreuder; Davison, McGuigan, Mulipola, Peterson, Fuser, Robinson (co-capt), Van der Walt, Graham.
Replacements: Blamire, Cooper, Tampin, Montgomery, Hardie, Stuart, Connon, Wacokecoke.
Yellow card: Penny (Newcastle Falcons)
Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU).