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The opening minutes of the match saw Newcastle put pressure on the Irish defence straight from the kick-off. After only five minutes, this pressure bought about Gopperth’s first successful attempt on goal, a penalty 10 metres out, in front of the posts which he duly took.
Irish immediately responded by turning the tables on Newcastle with some attacking flair of their own, however Newcastle were able to force the Irish attack into touch.
The following 15 minutes of play saw neither side take control of the contest, numerous times both sides kicked the ball out on the full and were forced back towards their respective lines by the touch judge’s flag. Delon Armitage was the exception to the case as he put in three superb kicks deep into Falcons territory to give Irish solid attacking platforms to play off.
By the 20 minute mark, the Exiles pressure eventually told on the Newcastle pack gifting Tom Homer with his first chance at goal. Homer stepped up and slotted the ball straight between the posts, levelling the score at 3-3.
The resulting kick-off lead to the first try of the game, a Newcastle line-out was disrupted by Nick Kennedy, before Delon Armitage had his clearance kick half charged down. The ball was hacked on down field by Matt Garvey and gathered by Jonathan Spratt. Spratt was then able to offload out of the tackle to the supporting Tagicakibau who went in under the posts. Homer converted and Irish led 3-10.
The remaining score of the half came from the boot of Gopperth who took his opportunity with a drop goal on 37 minutes, leaving London Irish in the lead at half-time, 6-10.
Newcastle opened the scoring in the second half with another Gopperth penalty. The Newcastle pack were able to force the penalty at the scrum, leaving Gopperth with a 42 metre effort, which he took with open arms, again reducing the deficit to 9-10.
During the following 10 minutes, both sides missed kickable penalties, Gopperth hitting the post and Homer pushing the ball slightly to the right of the uprights.
A possible turning point in the match came when Newcastle lock, Adriaan Fondse was shown a red card for an off the ball offence at the ruck. However Irish were not able to take control as a few minutes later Newcastle intercepted a pass to score under the posts. This was unfortunate as in the lead up, the Exiles showed strong attacking intent, creating the overlap, and would have scored had the pass not been intercepted.
Gopperth, who had been outstanding all game, added two late penalties to put the result beyond London Irish.
Northampton Saints travel to Madejski Stadium next Sunday in a crucial Aviva Premiership clash.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 0-3, 3-3, 10-3, 10-6, 10-9, 10-16, 10-19
Scorers: London Irish; Tries: Tagicakibau (23); Conversions: Homer; Penalties: Homer (13); Newcastle Falcons; Tries: Shortland (67); Conversions: Gopperth Penalties: Gopperth (5, 47, 77); Drop Goal: Gopperth (37)
Newcastle Falcons team
15. Greg Goosen; 14. Tom Bedford (rep: Rikki Sheriffe, 74); 13. Jamie Helleur; 12. James Fitzpatrick; 11. Ryan Shortland; 10. Jimmy Gopperth (Captain); 9. Chris Pilgrim (rep: Will Chudley, 60); 1. Grant Shiells (rep: Jonny Goulding, 52); 2. Rob Vickers; 3. Euan Murray; 4. Adriaan Fondse; 5. Tim Swinson; 6. Ally Hogg (rep: Ashley Wells, 79); 7. Will Welch (rep: Taiasina Tu'ifua, 69); 8. Mark Wilson
Replacements: 16. Michael Mayhew; 17. Jonny Golding; 18. Ashley Wells; 19. Andrew van der Heijden; 20. Taiasina Tu'ifua; 21. Will Chudley; 22. Joel Hodgson; 23. Rikki Sherrife
London Irish team
15. Delon Armitage; 14. Tom Homer (rep: Marland Yarde, 71); 13. Jonathan Joseph; 12. Jonathan Spratt; 11. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 10. Dan Bowden (rep: Adrian Jarvis, 71); 9. Paul Hodgson (rep: Ross Samson, 51); 1. Max Lahiff (rep: Clarke Dermody, 63); 2. David Paice (rep: James Buckland, 63); 3. Faan Rautenbach (rep: Paulica Ion, 51); 4. Nick Kennedy (Captain); 5. Bryn Evans (rep: Ed Siggery, 40); 6. Matt Garvey; 7. Kieran Roche; 8. Richard Thorpe
Replacements: 16. James Buckland; 17. Clarke Dermody 18. Paulica Ion; 19. Bob Casey; 20. Ed Siggery; 21. Marland Yarde; 22. Adrian Jarvis; 23. Ross Samson
Referee: JP Doyle