Worcester comeback dents Newcastle’s play-off hopes
Defeat drops Falcons outside top four with three games to go.
Newcastle’s Aviva Premiership play-off hopes suffered a setback as Worcester came from behind to stun them 27-13 at Sixways.
Wing Vereniki Goneva’s first-half try put Newcastle in charge, while fly-half Toby Flood added two penalties and a conversion, yet Worcester fought back impressively from a seven-point deficit.
Full-back Chris Pennell booted two early penalties before Worcester turned the game on its head with touchdowns during a three-minute second-half spell from flanker David Denton and prop Nick Schonert, both converted by substitute Dorian Jones, before Denton added his second five minutes from time and Jones again converted.
The result dropped Newcastle, who have never reached the play-offs since they began 16 years ago, outside the top four with three games left – at home to Sale Sharks and Wasps, plus an away clash against Leicester.
And they will be frustrated at playing second fiddle to a Worcester side far hungrier and organised as they recovered impressively after conceding Goneva’s try, scoring 21 unanswered second-half points.
Worcester made a bright start, going ahead after just three minutes when Pennell kicked a penalty from just inside Newcastle’s half, although he was well wide with a kick from shorter range shortly afterwards.
Newcastle, starved of possession, could make little headway as Warriors’ England centre Ben Te’o tested them through a couple of midfield surges and a deft touch finder deep inside the Falcons 22.
It took Newcastle 20 minutes to threaten Worcester defensively, and they made progress through a sharp Sinoti Sinoti break before Warriors infringed and Flood kicked an equalising penalty.
Flood’s strike settled Newcastle down, and he nudged them ahead four minutes later when several Worcester players carelessly drifted offside barely 15 metres from their own posts.
And the Falcons thought they had scored from their next attack as Sinoti broke clear, but referee Christophe Ridley brought play back for a knock-on in build-up play by centre Chris Harris.
But Newcastle finally broke through on the stroke of half-time after Pennell booted a second penalty, with Sinoti and full-back Alex Tait making key contributions before Goneva applied a decisive finish.
Flood’s conversion made it 13-6 at half-time, giving Newcastle an advantage that did not look likely following Worcester’s initial dominance.
Worcester began the second period in similar vein to the first, setting up camp inside Newcastle’s 22, but they blew a golden try-scoring opportunity when Pennell could not keep hold of the ball as he stretched for Newcastle’s line after wing Bryce Heem freed him in space.
But the Warriors drew level after 66 minutes when a period of concerted pressure ended with Denton powering over from close range after Worcester sacrificed a kickable penalty for an attacking scrum, and Jones converted.
And it got better for the home side just three minutes later as Schonert claimed a touchdown that Jones converted, leaving Newcastle suddenly up against it.
And there proved no way back for the Falcons as Denton sealed the deal, leaving them to regroup quickly ahead of hosting Sale next Friday.