Quins ruin Richards' day
There was no dream return for Dean Richards against his former club Harlequins.
In fact, it turned out to be a real nightmare as Quins hammered the Falcons 35-9 - their highest score at Kingston Park - claiming a a four-try bonus point in the process, two of them coming from wing Sam Smith.
The result keeps Quins in the Aviva Premiership's top four.
Despiye being just seven points adrift at the break, Newcastle's lack of cutting edge was painfully obvious - they have only three tries in the Premiership this season - and they were handed a lesson in finishing by Quins with skipper Nick Easter in imperious form in an unaccustomed role as second row.
It was hugely disappointing for Newcastle's biggest home crowd of the season when they conceded a soft opening try after just nine minutes when hooker Dave Ward, who was also a huge influence, cut back inside and brushed off Will Welch's ineffectual tackle and shipped the ball to Tom Williams, who had no problem evading Alex Tait for a score converted by Nick Evans.
Evans and Phil Godman exchanged penalties for offside in midfield and Nick Cato would have been away had he managed to hang on to an attempted interception, but Newcastle were very much on the back foot. Another Evans penalty, when Carlo Del Fava transgressed, made it 13-3 after 25 minutes and Godman missed an easy chance four minutes later.
He kicked a much more difficult penalty three minutes later to keep Newcastle in touch, but the Falcons were under constant pressure from Danny Care's sniping and bustling number eight Tom Guest's gutsy running, plus the uncompromising contribution of Ward and Easter.
However, Newcastle did end the half on the front foot with a dominant scrum to force a penalty and then some excellent pick and drives with Ally Hogg, making his 100th appearance, and Welch in the van.
Scott Lawson carried it on but the move ended with the ball being spilled in the Quins' 22 right on half- time.
If Newcastle hoped for a better start to the second half they were again disappointed when Smith scored inside a minute of the restart. Evans cut back inside and from the recycle it was simply a matter of fast hands for the winger to go over in the corner.
Evans missed the conversion but landed a 47th-minute penalty to cancel out Godman's 43rd-minute strike and at 21-9 Newcastle were really chasing the game.
Ryan Shortland's powerful run briefly raised Newcastle's hopes but Quins were out of sight 16 minutes into the second half when Care fed Smith who hit the line at pace, made it available at the ruck and Care snapped it up to dart through for a try, Evans converting for 28-9.
Cato, Tait and Warren Fury set up a promising attack but Hogg's floated pass to the wing cleared everyone into touch, much to the crowd's disappointment.
They were disappointed again when Newcastle spurned a kick at goal to go for the corner, but not for the first time, the Falcons overthrew at the line-out and the chance was wasted.
Quins collected the try bonus point in the 68th minute when James Fitzpatrick lost the ball in contact on the 22 and Guest snapped it up and offloaded to Smith, who surged away on a 60 metre run for his second try converted by Evans.
It was a fitting bonus try and certainly gives Newcastle - and Richards - a clear view of just how much they need to improve.