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Gopperth is golden for Falcons

Newcastle director of rugby Gary Gold paid tribute to his side after they snatched a late win over Sale to keep alive their hopes of avoiding relegation.

Jimmy Gopperth's 76th-minute penalty saw the Falcons come back from 19-12 down to win 21-19 and cut the gap between themselves and Wasps to just four points. Sale scored three first-half tries and looked to be running away with the game, but Newcastle were a different side after the break.

"We were poor in the first half," conceded Gold. "We gave them possession in soft situations and we dropped the ball a lot and they are a great side from broken field ball. But given the situation we are in at this stage of the season, we said we had to stick to our guns and hold on to the ball and back ourselves."

He added: "The biggest thing was the character shown tonight. At 19-12 down we were staring down the barrel and it would have been easy for the guys to give up but they didn't. I just want to congratulate every single one of them. They showed great courage.

"It's been difficult for them. They have been in this position since November and they are tired of it. I'm ecstatic for them, they've done a fantastic job and the coaching staff have done a fantastic job. It's not getting any easier but it could have been a lot more difficult had we capitulated.

"I'm now looking forward to Gloucester and we have to make sure we have to hold on to the ball better and then get the balance right."

With Dean Richards, who takes over from Gold as Falcons director of rugby next season, watching from the stand, the Falcons stretched their unbeaten home run to five games.

Gold paid tribute to influence of former Ireland scrum-half Peter Stringer and Gopperth's golden boot for keeping alive Newcastle's hopes of avoiding relegation.

"I didn't say a lot to Jimmy at half-time," added Gold. "He didn't have a great first half, but I just put my arm around him and told him what a good player he is and told him to crack on.

"He knows better than I what his capabilities are and he is very clear about when he messes up and he's such a top bloke and takes it so personally and that's more of a worry if anything. He is a class player and when the real pressure was on to kick the winning goal he did."

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