Leeds scent revival after upsetting Falcons

Newcastle 15 Leeds 16
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The Independent Online

Who needs to sit in front of the fire watching festive-time telly when you can see the Great Escape in person in the freezing cold? Or the possible beginnings of it, at any rate.

Leeds require a few more victories yet before they can start thinking of clearing the barbed wire and heading for a safer haven than Steve McQueen managed to locate, but for the time being the Guinness Premiership's bottom team can see light at the end of the tunnel. From first to last whistle in the icy rain at Kingston Park yesterday, they pressed, hustled and closed. They ended up a man down, clinging on by a point, but thoroughly merited their second league win of the season, their forwards having controlled the bulk of the game and Alfie To'oala, their strapping Samoan No 8, having plundered the only try.

"It's a massive result for us," Andy Key, Leeds' director of rugby, reflected. "It brings a little more belief to the side. The way we're playing at the moment, bet on us to stay up. I would."

There may be a few more backers if the Headingley side can knock Bath for six in what promises to be a pivotal Premiership encounter next Saturday. On Tyneside yesterday, there were more than a few stunned souls, a crowd of 8,766 – Newcastle's biggest for 20 months – having braved the cold in expectation of a home victory.

They were warmed by an early Jimmy Gopperth penalty before the visitors proceeded to get something of a grip on territory and possession.

Leeds might have made more impact on the scoreboard had Seru Rabeni not been stopped short after a barnstorming break. As it was, a Ceiron Thomas penalty was all the visitors managed before Newcastle fleetingly flexed some attacking muscle, Tongan flanker Josh Afu spilling the ball within sight of the line.

Still, with the score tied at three penalties apiece, Leeds claimed their reward three minutes before the interval. A relentless wave of pick-and-go drives culminated with To'oala crashing over the line. Teenager Joe Ford, on as a replacement for Thomas at fly-half, added the extras, giving Leeds a 16-9 cushion at the interval.

They were to need every point of their advantage. Two further Gopperth penalties narrowed the gap to one point – the latter after Henry Paul was yellow-carded for blocking Newcastle's Kiwi fly-half. It was a backs to the wall job in the final ten minutes for the side directed by Key and coached by Back. To their credit, they managed to hold out. Deservedly so.

Scorers: Newcastle: Penalties Gopperth (5). Leeds: Try To'oala; Conversion Ford; Penalties Thomas (3).

Newcastle: A Tait; G Bobo (T Biggs, 60), R Vickerman, T Tu'ipulotu, C Amesbury; J Gopperth, M Young (H Charlton, 62); J Golding, R Vicke rs, C Hayman (capt), J Hudson (M Sorenson, 52), T Swinson, J Afu (W Welch, 66), B Wilson, F Levi.

Leeds: L Hinton; S Armstrong, S Rabeni (H Fa'afili, 65), H Paul, L Blackett; C Thomas (J Ford, 35), A Gomarsall; M MacDonald, R Rawlinson (V Ma'asi 68), J Gomez (T McGee, 58), E Lund, M Wentzel (capt), K Myall (C Clark, 68), H Fourie (C Clark, 32-40), A To'oala (R Oakley, 60)

Referee: D Rose (RFU).

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