Edinburgh 10 Newcastle 13
Jonny Wilkinson celebrated his latest comeback by booting Newcastle to another crucial Heineken Cup triumph, against Edinburgh at Murrayfield tonight.
Stubborn Edinburgh threatened to spoil his party as they held the lead until the dying seconds.
But ‘supersub’ Wilkinson’s conversion of Mike Stephenson’s dramatic try made sure the Falcons kept their 100% Cup record.
Newcastle were dominant early on but could not turn pressure into immediate points.
Despite being given such a hard time up front in last weekend’s tussle at Kingston Park, the Falcons were content to keep the ball among their forwards.
Wales star Colin Charvis embarked on the first threatening break of the contest before the ball was shipped out wide to Stephenson. But the momentum was lost when he failed to release the ball quickly enough in the tackle.
Scotland lock Craig Hamilton, keen to impress national boss Matt Williams, was the next Newcastle man to test the home defence.
He galloped 30 metres until he was hauled down by full-back Hugo Southwell, and again the promising move fell to pieces through accidental offside.
Having weathered the early storm, Edinburgh replied in confident fashion to set up a series of raids – but they were also guilty of spoiling good work with basic mistakes.
They kept up the pressure and were doubly rewarded. First, Falcons’ Springbok prop Marius Hurter was yellow-carded for killing the ball on the ground. Then from the latest in a string of penalties, the Gunners broke the deadlock with a well-worked set-piece try.
International scrum-half Mikey Blair made the initial burst before sending Scotland Under-21s captain David Callam cruising in under the crossbar to give Chris Paterson the simplest of conversions.
Paterson was back in the spotlight for a different reason shortly afterwards. He was put in trouble by Southwell’s sloppy pass – and from the resultant penalty, Aussie Matt Burke reduced the leeway from a tricky angle.
Edinburgh then lost Fergus Pringle from the second row with a nose injury. He was replaced by Scott Murray, making his comeback from the knee problem which forced him to sit out the autumn Test series.
Newcastle kept the upper hand as the interval approached, but Burke trooped off in frustration with two penalty misses to his name.
He was wide with a straightforward effort from 35 metres out and then miscued again three minutes later from close to the touchline.
Edinburgh’s controversial new recruit from Australian rugby league, Ben MacDougall, had the home fans roaring with excitement as he found clear space - but he surrendered the ball when the Falcons markers surrounded him.
The large contingent of Newcastle supporters were delighted when Wilkinson dashed out for the restart, having replaced Dave Walder in the pivotal role.
But it was Edinburgh who looked the side more likely to add to their tally in the short term.
Brendan Laney was narrowly off target with a drop-goal attempt – and then Marcus Di Rollo’s powerful run was halted when the referee blew for a marginal forward pass.
Wilkinson got back into the swing of things in the 46th minute when he confidently stroked over a penalty from wide on the right to slash the home advantage to a single point.
Most of the action was confined to the area between the 22 zones as defences refused to buckle.
With Wilkinson tied in to a maul, Tom May tried a snap drop-goal – but his effort sailed comfortably wide.
Phil Godman’s long-range penalty gave Edinburgh a further boost.
But then came Stephenson’s clincher, goaled by dead-eye Wilkinson.