Premiership: Newcastle Falcons 28-20 Exeter Chiefs
|Newcastle (25) 28|
|Tries: Sinoti, Goneva, Cooper Pens: Flood, Hodgson 2 Cons: Hodgson 2|
|Exeter (3) 20|
|Tries: Simmonds, Woodburn, Salmon Pen: Steenson Con: Steenson|
Newcastle Falcons produced a superb first-half performance to inflict a first defeat in eight games on Premiership leaders Exeter Chiefs.
The in-form Falcons raced into a 25-3 lead at the break at Kingston Park through tries from Sinoti Sinoti, Vereniki Goneva and Kyle Cooper.
Sam Simmonds, Olly Woodburn and Toby Salmon replied, but Newcastle held on.
Newcastle have now won six matches in a row in all competitions, while Exeter's lead has been cut to five points.
The Falcons move up to sixth in the Premiership, just two points off fourth-placed Gloucester, as they bid for a first play-off place since the system was restructured more than a decade ago.
There was an element of controversy about Samoan wing Sinoti's opening try which saw him collect what appeared to be a forward pass from Rob Vickers. However, the finish from the 32-year-old was magnificent as he raced down the touchline from his own half to score.
Goneva's second was of equal quality with the Fijian sprinting in from halfway, before Cooper powered over to all but seal the victory at the break.
Defending champions Exeter piled on the pressure in the second half, Simmonds bundling over shortly after the restart.
Wing Woodburn touched down after collecting the ball from the back of the scrum and Salmon was driven to the try-line on 78 minutes, but Chiefs could not complete a second-half turnaround.
It was also the first time in 33 Premiership matches that Exeter had come away without at least one point.
Gareth Steenson could only kick one of his three conversion attempts, while Joel Hodgson kicked two, plus the last-minute penalty which denied the visitors even a losing bonus point, allowing Saracens to halve the 10-point pre-match gap by running in five tries to win at Wasps.
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards:
"That final penalty was crucial. Exeter are a quality side. The bonus for us was to be able knock them back time and time again.
"The first half was superb. The second half we dogged it out and the boys were magnificent. They just never gave up and put their bodies on the line time and time again.
"The boys were quite lively in the changing room afterwards. I'm very proud of them, especially as we didn't get the rub of the green from the referee and had a lot of disruption to our back five."
Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter:
"I'm not going to make too big a deal of it. But our performance was simply not good enough and it's the kick up the backside we needed.
"There were too many individual moments when we didn't do the business, and that's not to take anything away from Newcastle - the result is a great credit to them.
"We have to settle everything down in the next two or three weeks and try to get things back on course. There will a be a tough review over the next few days."
Newcastle: Hammersley; Goneva, Harris, Matavesi, Sinoti; Flood, Young; Vickers, Cooper, Welsh, Green, Robinson, Welch (capt), Graham, Wilson.
Replacements: Lawson, Lockwood, Wilson, Olmstead, Latu, Takulua, Hodgson, Socino.
Exeter: Turner; Short, Whitten, Hill, Woodburn; Steenson, White; Hepburn, Yeandle (capt), Francis, Lees, Atkins, Ewers, Kvesic, Simmonds.
Replacements: Taione, Rimmer, Holmes, Salmon, Waldrom, Chudley, Slade, Dollman.