Gloucester 34 Newcastle Falcons 9: Second-half collapse leaves Falcons facing relegation decider

Gloucester boss Bryan Redpath praised his players after the Premiership play-off contenders reacted in bonus-point fashion to their Harlequins horror show last weekend, with a victory that leaves Newcastle just two points above Leeds at the bottom.

Three converted tries during 12 second-half minutes - the last two after Newcastle No 8 Ally Hogg was sin-binned - underpinned Gloucester’s 34-9 victory.

And it kept them in third spot as they recovered from a 53-15 drubbing by Quins, a performance that Redpath described as “embarrassing”.

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Newcastle, made life awkward, trailing just 13-9 until the 64th minute, but they headed home pointless ahead of next Saturday’s crunch game with Leeds.

Falcons head coach Alan Tait felt his team were firmly in contention at the interval, but offered no excuses for a second half when Gloucester scored 24 unanswered points.

“We just weren’t at the races in the second-half,” he said.

“We had been so upbeat at half-time, but we didn’t finish off the chances and breaks we made.

“At half-time, we said Gloucester seemed to be toiling a little bit, but a couple of mistakes - including a crazy error in defence - they are the kind of things that as a coach you just hold your head.

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“We are where we are. We’ve got four home games to come, and the boys are going to have to pull together.”

Tait’s opposite number Redpath said: “We didn’t have a huge amount of control in the first-half.

“We ended up kicking poorly and kicked in the middle of the pitch too much.

“In the second-half we had a lot more continuity, and we got some form of reaction from last weekend. There was frustration in the first 60 minutes, but that’s life – credit to Newcastle, they were very dogged.”

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The Falcons last won on Gloucester soil during their Premiership title-winning campaign 13 years ago, yet three Jimmy Gopperth penalties kept them in contention for much of a low-quality contest.

Full-back Freddie Burns, wing Jonny May, scrum-half Rory Lawson and substitute Henry Trinder scored tries for Gloucester, while Burns slotted two conversions and two penalties for a 15-point haul before Tim Taylor added the final two conversions.

The victory followed their 34-7 LV= Cup final win against Newcastle just two weeks ago, although this latest performance fell well short of that display in terms of quality.

Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder will take his side into next weekend’s Heineken Cup quarter-final in upbeat mood following Saturday’s confidence-boosting 53-24 win over Sale Sharks.

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Saints scored eight tries at Franklin’s Gardens this afternoon to lift spirits ahead of next Sunday’s European last-eight tie against Ulster at Milton Keynes – and Mallinder fancies his team’s chances.

He said: “It’s going to be a really tough game, but it’s one we are capable of winning.”

Resurgent England prop Matt Stevens put in a man-of-the-match performance for Saracens as they beat Bath 20-9, to keep pace with Leicester Tigers at the top.