Irish hold on for Falcons win
London Irish held on to record a narrow 22-21 Premiership victory over Newcastle before a crowd of over 15,000 at the Madejski Stadium.
Irish secured an early 14-0 lead which the Falcons could not peg back, despite the visitors totally controlling the second half and the home side losing three players to the sin-bin.
Halani Aulika, Scott Steele and Andrew Fenby scored the tries for the hosts with Shane Geraghty converting two. Chris Noakes kicked a late penalty to seal victory.
Replacement, Chris Harris and Adam Powell, scored Newcastle's tries with Tom Catterick adding three penalties and a conversion.
Irish's win extended the gap between the two sides in the table to seven points, with the home side remaining 10th and their opponents one spot further back.
George Skivington returned from injury to captain the Irish with Blair Cowan resuming in the back row after completing his Scottish international duties. Cowan replaced Ofisa Treviranus, who will be out for four weeks after undergoing ankle surgery.
England squad member, Kieran Brookes was included at prop for Newcastle with Noah Cato and Gonzalo Tiesi returning to the back division, after being out with injuries.
Irish made a whirlwind start, scoring the first try after only 90 seconds. Good ball retention saw the home side gain a platform in the Falcons 22, where - from a ruck - Aulika saw a huge gap in the opposition defence and raced over for the try, which Geraghty converted.
The hosts dominated the opening period and after declining to take two kickable penalties, they got their reward when Steele skipped away from a driving line-out for his side's second try, which Geraghty converted for a 14-0 lead after only 12 minutes.
Catterick put Newcastle on the scoreboard with a simple penalty before Geraghty was sin-binned for a deliberate offside as he denied the Falcons a clear scoring opportunity when they were only five metres out from the Irish line.
During Geraghty's absence, the visitors camped in the Irish 22 but despite the enterprise of Powell and Riki Tupuna, the home defence held firm and Geraghty returned with no damage done to home hopes.
Within a minute of Geraghty's re-entry, Irish were back down to 14 men when hooker David Paice was yellow carded for offside with Catterick kicking the resulting penalty.
Geraghty had a chance to nullify this but narrowly missed a long-range penalty, but - despite being a man short - his side scored the next try when Fenby crossed to leave Irish 19-6 ahead at the interval.
Newcastle began strongly after the restart and looked to have scored when Sinoti Sinoti crashed over but TMO replays showed the final pass as being forward so Paice returned with the visitors having failed to take any advantage from his absence.
It was all Newcastle in the opening 10 minutes of the second half but they could not break down a stubborn home defence. Brookes and Tiesi were substituted for Juan Orlandi and Juan Pablo Socino as Falcons searched for fresh legs in the hope of a breakthrough.
The try did not come but Catterick did succeed with his third penalty to gain some reward. Geraghty was then off target with an attempt of his own so Irish led 19-9 at the end of the third quarter.
It was still all one-way traffic deep into the second half as Newcastle were in total control. Their pressure eventually paid off when Harris forced his way over for a try with 12 minutes to go.
Newcastle replacement, Josh Furno was yellow carded for a tip tackle and Irish's Jebb Sinclair for retaliation before Noakes kicked a penalty to give Irish some breathing space.
It was just enough as Powell scored a try in the last minute to secure a deserved bonus point for the Falcons as Irish just held on.