Newcastle Falcons 29-17 London Irish – Exiles late fightback in vain

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Alex Lewington produced a brilliant late assist (Pic by Peter Bloodworth)

London Irish’s late fightback came in vain as they narrowly missed out on a bonus point at Newcastle Falcons.

The Exiles’ defensive frailties were apparent again as they conceded three tries in seven first half minutes to fall 24-3 behind at the break.

Tries from substitutes Conor Gilsenan and Tom Fowlie set up a grandstand finish, but Irish could not quite get to within losing bonus point range, going down 29-17.

Tom Fowlie crossed the whitewash late on

Nick Kennedy made three changes to the side which lost at home to Northampton Saints last time out with Scott Steele, David Paice and Ofisa Treviranus replacing Brendan McKibbin, Dave Porecki and Gilsenan.

A slow start has been the problem for Irish all season, but they began well in the north east, taking the lead through a fourth minute Tommy Bell penalty.

However, the pressure could not yield more than three points as errors crept in and Newcastle worked their way back into the contest.

Sonatane Takulua kicked the game level before a flurry of tries left Irish stunned. The first came on 20 minutes when Juan Pablo Socino burst beyond a Johnny Williams challenge to score under the posts.

Less than two minutes later a brilliant move was rounded off by Vereniki Goneva after James Marshall failed to make the tackle and Bell could not quite recover in time.

And the score escalated from 3-3 to 24-3 in the space of just seven minutes as Goneva got his second, stretching over to dab down after consultation with the TMO following a long spell of pressure on the line.

Exiles finished the first half well, but were dealt a blow when their possession inside the Falcons 22 proved fruitless.

A scrappy opening 15 minutes after the restart passed score-less before Newcastle, who are now top of the Premiership, added their bonus point fourth try.

Again with the aid of the TMO, Will Welch was adjudged to have dotted down in the corner before he was shoved into touch.

Ofisa Treviranus impressed on his return from injury

But Kennedy’s charges did not give in.

They almost grabbed their first try of the contest when Steele picked out debutant Saia Fainga’a to cross the whitewash, but the pass went forwards.

However, a superb break by Alex Lewington was rewarded on 67 minutes when he offloaded to the marauding Gilsenan to break the line and add some respectability to the score.

And attentions then quickly turned to trying to grab a bonus point when Marshall earned a slice of luck when his clever kick through kindly popped back up into his hands.

The ball was spun out to Fowlie on the left, who shurgged off two challenges to bring the scores to within 12 points.

Needing one more try to reduce the deficit to seven and earn a point from the trip, Irish had a good spell as the final moments approached, but when the ball was turned over, hope was gone.

Irish, who sit second bottom and four points clear of Worcester Warriors, are back in action next Saturday at home to Leicester Tigers.

LONDON IRISH: Bell, Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Williams (Tonks 40), Nalaga (Fowlie 58), Marshall, Steele (Meehan 68) Franks (Elrington 32-40, 67-80), Paice (c) (Fainga’a 61), Du Plessis (Hoskins 50), F. van der Merwe, De Chaves (Paulo 56), McNally, Cowan, Treviranus (Gilsenan 40).
Tries: Gilsenan (67), Fowlie (70)
Cons: Bell (67,71)
Pens: Bell (4)

NEWCASTLE: Tait, D. van der Merwe, Harris, J. Socino (Matavesi 71), Goneva, Willis (Hodgson 61), Takulua (Stuart 65), Vickers (Mavinga 59), S. Socino (Lawson 40), Welsh, Green, Witty (Robinson 53), Wilson, Welch (c), Latu (Hogg 59).
Tries: J. Socino (20), Goneva (22,27), Welch (60)
Cons: Takulua (21,23,28)
Pens: Takulua (16)

Referee: Ian Tempest
Attendance: 7,650

Scoring sequence (Irish first): 3-0, 3-3, 3-8, 3-10, 3-15, 3-17, 3-22, 3-24, 3-29, 8-29, 10-29, 15-29, 17-29.

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