Dean Richards hails Newcastle determination after opening victory
Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards hailed his side's gritty determination as the Falcons held on for an opening 19-17 Aviva Premiership victory over Sale Sharks at Kingston Park.
The Falcons had not won on the opening weekend of a new Aviva Premiership season since Sale visited Tyneside in 2007 and they had not beaten Sale on their last three visits to Kingston Park in the the Premiership.
But it was not cut and dried and the 5,523 crowd - and Richards - held their collective breath as Dan Mugford stepped up to take a penalty kick at goal with just 15 seconds left on the clock which would have given the Sharks a dramatic victory but from 35 metres out on the right he missed and the Kingston Park crowd erupted.
"No-one was leaving the stadium in the last few seconds were they," said Richards. "Which was hardly surprising with that kick to come, but it was also good to hear the crowd getting behind the players."
While full of praise for the way his side battled, Richards was also disappointed they almost let Sale in for the late win.
He added: "I was more annoyed with the fact we'd given away two avoidable penalties than the fact he could have kicked it and won the game for them.
"We nearly threw it away but we shouldn't have been in that position. We made a lot of line breaks and looked dangerous and we gave as good as we got in the forwards.
"Maybe we're going to be a little luckier this season than last. It's the little things that make the difference. The penalty count may have been in our favour but those last two penalties could have been very costly."
Sale boss Steve Diamond admitted to frustration after an indifferent performance from the Sharks.
He said: "At least we got a bonus point. But I'm just a bit frustrated by our performance. We just got cleared out on the floor and we conceded a lot of penalties and we'll have to look at that.
"We managed to have a shot in the last minute and it would probably have been a bit unfair if we'd won but I would have taken it.
"Newcastle is always a difficult place to come and get a result and they kept their shape well and caused us a few problems.
"We lost a couple of players with injuries with Rob Webber suffering a broken arm and AJJ MacGinty a back injury so we took him off as a precaution at half-time."