Andy Goode rolls back the years for Falcons as Quins let lead slip
Newcastle's signing of Andy Goode on a three-month contract might prove the best bit of business Dean Richards has done this season after he made a match-turning impact against Harlequins.
The Falcons boss brought 35-year-old Goode out of retirement as back-up fly-half after All Black Mike Delaney was injured.
And the former England star's second-half masterclass against Quins sparked a Falcons fightback, earning a 26-19 victory that lifts them off the bottom of the Aviva Premiership.
Goode came on with Newcastle trailing 19-10 and staring at another defeat.
In difficult conditions, with rain coming down, he kicked three penalties, one from halfway and another from 45 metres, to spark a major Falcons revival.
With Goode directing operations, the Newcastle pack moved up several gears and in a massive finish prop Rob Vickers squeezed over for a try - confirmed by the TMO - two minutes from the end.
Goode then slotted a difficult conversion to send Newcastle leapfrogging over fellow strugglers London Irish.
Goode said of his display: "I may not have the pace any more but what I have got is bags of experience. When the rain came down we were 19-10 down and it wasn't about panicking, it was about playing in the right areas and, besides, the more I kick the less I have to run.
"Our forwards were magnificent in that closing period. We spoke at half-time about playing in the right areas after we did well to contain them pretty well in the first half, but they came at us really well and finished off some tries, but we didn't make it too hard for them did we?
"We said just 'stick to our system and play in the right areas' and that's what we did. Our forwards were exceptional and they did what I asked them to do and you can't ask for more than that.
"The crowd here are a noisy bunch and they've given me some stick over the years when I've come up here with other teams, and it's nice to hear them still giving me stick but in the right way.
"They are a brilliant bunch and you can see and feel the passion of the people. The players know it and feel it. Everyone is working very hard and we've moved up a place in the table and if we can get more wins in the next few weeks, the fans and the players will be happy."
Scott Lawson's early try was wiped out by Charlie Walker's double strike either side of half-time plus a third try from Dave Ward to make it 19-10 to Harlequins, before Goode's three penalties levelled it and Vickers won it.
Whether Goode stays on after his three-month contract is up is something neither he nor Newcastle boss Dean Richards would be drawn on.
Richards said: "Andy does change things - that's the value of experience and people listen to you when you have experience and invariably the decisions he makes are the right decisions. To have someone like him come off the bench is outstanding.
"We'll sit down and talk about Andy's situation in March. Mike Delaney should be back by then and it also depends on how much Andy is enjoying it.
"It was a hell of game but we made it hard for ourselves with 15 minutes of brainless rugby around half-time. When we pick and go from three metres out we're pretty effective and they ran out of defenders for the final try and Robbie Vickers loves that - that's his forte, scoring from three inches."
The result left Quins boss Conor O'Shea unimpressed with referee Luke Pearce's performance.
"We have to control what we can control," O'Shea said. "You know the answer to what you're asking. If I give the answer I'll get fined, so I won't give the answer, we have to take people like that out of the equation and we didn't take him out of the equation.
"Credit to the Falcons for showing the fighting spirit they did. It's a tough place to come and it's just incredibly frustrating to have come back into the game and then lose it.
"We didn't start as well as we wanted to. We have to look at what we control but if I give the answer I should give and it will be the right answer then I will be in trouble and the report I get back won't allow me to talk about it.
"Andy Goode is a class act and he can pull players around the pitch. He's a quality player and I'm sure London Irish will be disappointed to see his performance today."