London Irish suffered another narrow home defeat as they slipped to a 20-15 Aviva Premiership defeat to Newcastle Falcons this afternoon, writes Richard Ashton.

Nick Kennedy’s men began brightly and strung together a number of phases in midfield before a high tackle on Tom Fowlie allowed Greig Tonks to land an excellent 40-metre penalty from the left-hand touchline to put his side in front.

However, as they sadly so often do, Exiles gave the initiative straight back to the visitors by failing to roll away at a ruck, allowing ex-England international Toby Flood a straightforward kick from 15 metres out which levelled the scores.

Irish responded, however, and went back in front after Newcastle elected to take a quick line-out on their own five-metre line, only for a huge Max Northcote-Green tackle to lead to a penalty for not releasing. Tonks made no mistake from in front of the posts and Exiles led 6-3.

The remainder of the opening quarter proved even, Irish showing a marked improvement defensively from their defeat to Worcester the previous week, only for two individual errors to gift Newcastle a considerable advantage.

Firstly, after securing a turnover in their own 22, Fowlie attempted to kick clear when there was the possibility of an overlap, only to be charged down and letting Alex Tait collect the ball to score the opening try in the right-hand corner. Flood failed to add the extras but Newcastle led 8-6.

And they moved further ahead almost immediately after Tonks put up an up and under, only to fail to tackle scrum half Sonatone Takalua, who then scythed through the Irish defence before being halted on the 10-metre line.

When the ball was recycled, Juan Pablo Socino put up a beautiful cross-field kick which Tait collected on the run, the wing going over for a second score in less than five minutes. Flood converted and Falcons were in command at 15-6.

Irish were gifted a way back into the game though, as from the restart Newcastle were penalised for crossing, allowing Tonks to slot a penalty from in front of the posts.

However, for the second week running, Exiles shot themselves in the foot by conceding a try with the last play of the opening 40 minutes. After Johnny Williams was forced to take the ball into touch on his own line, Falcons produced a powerful maul which was halted illegally, sending Irish captain Mike Coman to the sin-bin.

The visitors came again with another strong maul, and after spinning the ball to the left, Vereniki Goneva crossed for his third try against Exiles this season. Flood – who had earlier missed a straightforward penalty – was again off target, but his side went into the break with a 20-9 advantage.

London Irish began the second half brightly, and put pressure on from a rolling maul and wave of attacks which were respectively stopped illegally. With the latter occurring in front of the posts, Tonks knocked over the kick to cut the gap to 20-12.

The middle phase of the half proved somewhat turgid aside from Joe Cokanasiga narrowly failing to grab hold of a Tonks kick ahead, Falcons successfully clearing to touch.

As the game entered its final 15 minutes, the away side launched a dominant period of play, going for the jugular as they turned down a simple shot at goal to kick to the corner in the hope of sealing a try bonus-point.

However, Exiles remained tremendously resolute, and twice held up their opponents over their own line before forcing Goneva to knock-on and clearing.

They then pulled themselves back into range of a losing bonus-point as Tonks landed a lengthy penalty from in front of the posts shortly after he had missed from slightly further out.

The final two-and-a-half minutes proved dramatic as Irish earned another penalty which James Marshall kicked to touch midway inside the Falcons’ half, but after launching a wave of attacks, the home side were penalised for going off their feet at a ruck, allowing Newcastle to kick to touch and end the game.

Irish remain 10 points adrift of Worcester Warriors at the foot of the table after they earned a try bonus-point in defeat at Saracens, and things get no easier for Exiles as they visit Leicester Tigers next Saturday.

London Irish: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 James Marshall, 9 Scott Steele, 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 3 Petrus du Plessis, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 6 Mike Coman (c), 7 Max Northcote-Green, 8 Ofisa Treviranus.

Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Blair Cowan, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Theo Brophy Clews, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma

Newcastle Falcons: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Sonatane Takulua; 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Kyle Cooper, 3 Jon Welsh, 4 Calum Green, 5 Sean Robinson, 6 Mark Wilson (c), 7 Gary Graham, 8 Nili Latu.

Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Sam Lockwood, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Evan Olmstead, 20 Will Welch, 21 Michael Young, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Josh Matavesi.

Attendance: 10,019.