Billy Burns scored a last-minute try as Gloucester completed a remarkable comeback to beat Newcastle 42-40 in a thrilling Aviva Premiership game at Kingsholm.
The hosts trailed 40-23 late on, but scored three tries to overcome a stuttering performance which saw them lose key players through injury.
Jonny May, Sione Kalamafoni and Dan Murphy all left the field to cause Gloucester concern ahead of next Friday’s European Challenge Cup final against Edinburgh.
Gloucester fly-half Billy Burns breaks through the Newcastle defence to score the winning ty
Burns slides in and seals a remarkable comeback by Gloucester on Saturday
They still scored five tries, with two from Billy Twelvetrees, one each from Dan Robson and Henry Purdy and Burns, with the fly-half kicking three penalties and four conversions for a match tally of 22 points.
Mark Wilson, Sinoti Sinoti, Scott Lawson and Josh Furno scored the Falcons’ tries, with Rory Clegg converting all four and kicking four penalties
Following last week’s excellent win over Exeter, Gloucester rested a number of their stars with Greig Laidlaw, James Hook and Richard Hibbard all placed on the bench. Robson, Burns and Darren Dawidiuk took their places in the starting line-up.
Newcastle made four changes from the team that lost to Bath a fortnight ago. Will Welch and Ally Hogg returned from injury to take up places in the back row, with Furno replacing Calum Green at lock. The final change was in the three-quarter line where Alex Tait came in for Adam Powell.
Gloucester suffered an early blow when May was tackled heavily and had to leave the field with a facial injury. Hook replaced him, just in time to see his replacement, Burns, miss badly with an easy penalty attempt.
This proved costly as, against the run of play, Newcastle opened the scoring with a splendid try. On halfway the visitors counter-attacked in style with Chris Harris and Sinoti combining skilfully to send in Wilson for the try, which Clegg converted.
Gloucester fought back from 40-23 down to secure victory at the Kingsholm Stadium
After 19 minutes, Gloucester were stunned as the visitors went further ahead with their second try. A neat pass from Riki Tipuna sent Hogg into space and the number eight had no difficulty in timing his pass to provide Sinoti with an easy run-in, Clegg’s conversion giving Newcastle a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Burns put Gloucester on the scoreboard with a penalty but the home side suffered a further setback when Kalamafoni limped off to be replaced by Gareth Evans.
However, the hosts struck back with a great try when they moved the ball from within their own 22. Burns saw a gap, which he raced through to charge 60 metres to send Twelvetrees over for the try for Burns to convert.
It was Newcastle’s turn to receive an injury blow when the luckless Hogg departed to be replaced by Sean Robinson, but they extended their lead through a Clegg penalty.
England centre Billy Twelvetrees scored two of Gloucester’s five tries in the victory
Burns nullified this with one for Gloucester, but, despite having the better of the first half in terms of territory and possession, they fell further behind when Lawson finished off a line-out drive. Clegg’s touchline conversion and a second penalty from him gave the Falcons a 27-13 interval lead.
Gloucester reacted by bringing on Hibbard, Tom Savage, John Afoa and Dan Murphy for the start of the second half but, at the first engagement; they lost Murphy to injury with Yann Thomas returning to the field.
The substitutions made an immediate impact as Newcastle were shunted off the own ball at a set scrum to concede a penalty, which Burns kicked but Clegg soon responded with one for the Falcons.
Bill Meakes became Gloucester’s seventh substitution of the afternoon and he immediately broke the opposition defence but the home side lacked the precision to finish it off.
Clegg kicked his fourth penalty before Gloucester rallied with Robson’s try before the scrum-half was replaced by Laidlaw.
Any remaining hopes of a Gloucester victory seemed to have been extinguished when Furno crashed over for the bonus-point try, but late tries from Twelvetrees and Purdy – both converted by Burns – set up a grandstand finish.
Gloucester pummelled their opponents’ line and, when the ball was moved wide, the elusive Burns evaded Clegg’s tackle for the match-winner.