There cannot be many gamblers who have thrown away as many chances in a casino as Newcastle did at Kingston Park yesterday.
They even created a last-minute opportunity to put a slipshod performance behind them when Jamie Noon escaped the suffocating embrace of the Gloucester defence, and delivered what should have been a try-scoring pass to the replacement flanker Ben Woods. Without hesitating, Woods shifted the ball on to Mike McCarthy, who spilled it as he crossed the line.
Newcastle's director of rugby, Rob Andrew, would have been better off if he had rested Matt Burke. The Falcons' full-back has been playing his socks off in a run which has brought defeat for Newcastle only once in their previous 11 games. Though instead of socking it to Gloucester, Burke missed five penalties. Victory takes Ryan's side back to third in the Premiership, while Newcastle's losing bonus point leaves them in eighth position.
"It was a dreadful game," was Andrew's take on proceedings, "and Matt for once had an off day. But so did a lot of our other players. We turned up and had a shocker." Ryan was only marginally more complimentary. "It must have been awful for the spectators. But we'll take our four points and are pleased to go back to third though if we keep playing like that we won't be third for much longer."
In a scrappy first half Newcastle's new-found forward authority was undermined by an unforgiving Gloucester pack. Patrice Collazo had Robbie Morris in all sorts of trouble, while the Gloucester lineout was rock solid. On the flank Andy Hazell and Jake Boer did their utmost to deny Newcastle unhindered possession, while behind them James Simpson-Daniel looked in fine fettle as did Terry Fanolua, who scored the only try of the match; though this of doubtful legality.
The move, initiated by Peter Richards, allowed Ludovic Mercier to provide what proved to be the scoring pass but, in the act of crossing the line, Fanolua was tackled by Anthony Elliott, the corner flag was uprooted, with the referee Tony Spreadbury unsighted. The touch judge Don Helme appeared not to be focusing on where Fanolua's feet were in relation to the touchline, but Helme nodded his approval and the try, which Mercier converted, stood.
It was 7-6 to Gloucester at the break, Burke having kicked two penalties. Burke then took the Falcons back in front with his only other penalty, but two from Mercier was enough to draw the faintest of smiles from Ryan.
Newcastle: Penalties Burke 3.
Gloucester: Try Fanolua; Conversion Mercier; Penalties Mercier 2.
Newcastle: M Burke; T May, M Tait, J Shaw (J Noon, 47), A Elliott; D Walder, H Charlton (J Grindal, 47); M Ward (R Morris, 62), M Thompson (A Long, h-t), R Morris (D Wilson, h-t), A Perry (L Gross, 71), S Grimes, M McCarthy, C Harris (B Woods, 64), C Charvis (capt).
Gloucester: J Goodridge; J Bailey, T Fanolua, R Keil (M Tindall, 48), J Simpson-Daniel; L Mercier, P Richards (S Amor, 48); P Collazo (N Wood, 58), M Davies, T Sigley, J Pendlebury (A Eustace, 65), A Brown, P Buxton (A Balding, 44), A Hazell, J Boer.
Referee: T Spreadbury (Somerset).Reuse content