Exeter close the gap on Premiership leaders Wasps
Exeter maintained the pressure on Premiership leaders Wasps with a hard-fought 36-14 victory over battling Newcastle at Sandy Park.
Chiefs' bonus-point win brings them to within one point of Wasps at the top of the table as a strong second-half performance from their pack proved too much for Falcons, who led 14-7 at one stage.
James Short scored two tries for Exeter with Harry Williams and Sam Skinner grabbing one each. There was a penalty-try award with Joe Simmonds converting four and adding a penalty.
Vereniki Goneva and Rob Vickers scored tries for Falcons with Sonatane Takulua converting both.
Newcastle suffered two blows when influential flanker Mark Wilson pulled out through illness, and hooker Kyle Cooper, with a shoulder injury, was also forced out of their starting line-up.
Despite the setbacks, Falcons began strongly to take a fourth-minute lead. Olly Woodburn dropped the kick-off to allow the visitors a platform in the home 22 from which they capitalised.
A couple of well-timed passes from Dom Waldouck and a few powerful bursts from Nili Latu put Chiefs' defence on the back foot and Goneva took advantage by powering over in the corner.
Takulua converted with a superb kick before a dramatic minute of play saw Exeter draw level. Goneva intercepted on his own 22 to race away but when he was overhauled he fed Chris Harris. The centre looked to have provided a scoring pass for Alex Tait but the full-back knocked on five metres from the home line.
Exeter secured possession to send Short away on a 90-metre run, easily sidestepping the covering Joel Hodgson en route to the try line. Simmonds knocked over the conversion to make it 7-7 at the end of a frantic opening quarter, which saw only two scrums and two line-outs.
A brilliant 35-metre run from Callum Chick set up the position from which Falcons regained the lead. The flanker tore through a huge hole in the defence and was hauled down a metre short but Vickers was on hand to force his way over.
Exeter were second best for the first half hour but they raised their game to score their second try after some sustained pressure, which their opponents struggled to contain. Geoff Parling made the telling burst to set up the score for Williams, with the conversion and a penalty from Simmonds putting Exeter 17-14 ahead at the interval.
The opening 10 minutes of the second half saw a marked downgrade in the standard of play with both sides making unforced handling errors and ill-discipline becoming an increased factor.
A high tackle by Ben Sowrey on Jack Maunder gave Chiefs a stranglehold in the visitors' 22 and after declining a couple of kickable penalties, they won a penalty-try award after Newcastle crumbled at a five-metre scrum.
With seven minutes remaining, Exeter secured their bonus point when replacement Skinner capitalised on a Newcastle fumble to score before Short raced over for his second in the final minute.