Exeter Chiefs suffered their fourth defeat in five Premiership games as they went down 24-21 to Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park last night.
In front of a small crowd due to the crazy clash with England’s World Cup game, Exeter were never in front in a game where fortunes swayed one way and then the next.
They paid for giving away too many penalties, a lack of accuracy and a lack of speed at the breakdown.
The Falcons took the lead when England hooker George McGuigan finished off a catch-and-drive, with fly-half Brett Connon - who was impressive all evening - adding the extras.
The Chiefs hit back only four minutes later with their own driving maul from a line-out, with South African lock Ruben Van Heerden getting his fourth try in four games, and Joe Simmonds converted.
Back came Newcastle with a try in the left-hand corner by Argentinian international Mateo Carreras after Josh Hodge missed a tackle, with Connon improving the score.
But the Chiefs levelled once more with a catch-and-drive try from skipper Jack Yeandle, converted by Simmonds, to even things up at 14-14 just before the break.
However, right on the stroke of half-time, openside flanker Guy Pepper dived over the top of a ruck beside the posts, and Connon slotted the simple conversion to give the Falcons a 21-14 interval lead.
The Falcons had a try by replacement Freddie Lockwood ruled out by television match official Rowan Kitt for a knock-on, but Connon added a penalty in the 62nd minute to stretch the home side’s lead to 10 points.
Exeter missed a golden chance for a try when replacement hooker Dan Frost had the ball dislodged from his grasp as he crossed the line, but they got within bonus-point range with a touchdown from close range by replacement prop and Australian international Scott Sio six minutes from time, with Simmonds keeping up the 100% kicking record on the night for both kickers with the conversion.
But the Chiefs were beaten by the clock, and the Falcons ran out worthy winners.
The Chiefs now have a break from Premiership action until Christmas Eve, when they have their big West Country derby against Bath at Sandy Park, by which time their England and Scotland internationals - Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg were both missing through injury last night - will be available again, and maybe one or two of their injured players.
The next month is filled with Premiership Cup and Champions Cup fixtures, starting with today’s Premiership Cup match against Bath at Sandy Park, with a 3pm kick-off.