Premiership: London Irish 22-21 Newcastle Falcons
|London Irish (19) 22|
|Tries: Aulika, Steele, Fenby Con: Geraghty 2 Pen: Noakes|
|Newcastle Falcons (6) 21|
|Tries: Harris, Powell Con: Catterick Pens: Catterick 3|
London Irish earned a morale-boosting victory, scoring three first-half tries to defeat fellow Premiership strugglers Newcastle Falcons.
Halani Aulika, Scott Steele and Andrew Fenby all crossed for the hosts, with Shane Geraghty adding two conversions.
Tom Catterick kicked two first-half penalties and one after the break while Chris Harris scored a try for Falcons.
Chris Noakes added a penalty for Irish with Adam Powell's converted last-minute try making it a tense finish.
London Irish now pull away from Newcastle, who are below them in the Premiership table, but will be disappointed not to have earned a bonus point after scoring three first-half tries.
The Exiles took just three minutes to score their first try with Aulika bursting through a ruck from 13 metres out to cross for the hosts. Geraghty added the conversion, as he did when scrum-half Steele broke through poor Newcastle defence as Irish took a 14-0 lead.
Two penalties from Catterick, either side of a Geraghty yellow card, reduced the deficit but Irish, who then had hooker David Paice sent to the sin bin for offside, crossed for their third try of the half just before the break.
A lineout 20 metres out was recycled and the hosts took advantage of an overlap out wide, with Fenby going over in the corner.
Newcastle staged a second-half comeback, though, and got themselves back in the game through Catterick's penalty before Harris scored a wonderful try for Falcons as he eventually wriggled over for 19-14.
Noakes' penalty, kicked while both sides were down to 14 men as Newcastle's Josh Furno and Irish's Jebb Sinclair were yellow-carded, looked to have sealed the game but Powell's last-minute try, which Catterick converted, reduced the deficit to one point and set up a nervy finish.
However, Irish held on for their sixth victory over the season, with Newcastle consoling themselves with a losing bonus point.
London Irish interim boss Glenn Delaney:
"They could have won the game three times over. We got off to an absolute flyer but after that got no ball.
"We had four scoring opportunities and took three of them and after that it was all about our defence, of which I was very proud."
Newcastle Falcons number eight Mark Wilson:
"We shot ourselves in the foot, we've got to be squeaky clean from the start."
"How many times have we given a side a soft start this season? It was a tough one to take but we showed a lot of character in the second half."
London Irish: Fenby; Lewington, Griffin, Sheridan, Fowlie; Geraghty, Steele; Court, Paice, Aulika, Skivington (capt), Rouse, Gilsenan, Cowan, Guest.
Replacements: Stevens, Parr, Halavatau, Sinclair, Narraway, Allinson, Noakes, Ojo.
Sin Bin: Geraghty (22), Paice (35), Sinclair (76).
Newcastle Falcons: A. Tait; Cato, Tiesi, Powell, Sinoti; Catterick, Tipuna; Vickers, Lawson, Brookes, Thompson, Barrow, Mayhew, Welch (capt), Wilson.
Replacements: Hawkins, Rogers, Orlandi, Furno, Saull, Davies, Socino, Harris.
Sin Bin: Furno (70).
Ref: Greg Garner (RFU).