- EXETER CHIEFS 16 - 3 NEWCASTLE FALCONS
Exeter returned to winning ways at Sandy Park to stay in the hunt for a top-six Aviva Premiership finish against a Newcastle side who again failed to score a try.
The Chiefs looked to be taking a 9-0 lead into the break after fly-half Gareth Steenson, with the wind at his back, landed three penalties - but on the stroke of half-time his opposite number Phil Godman pulled back three points.
Haydn Thomas crossed for the only try of the game 11 minutes into the second period with Steenson, who saw a penalty attempt drop short, adding the simple conversion for the only points of the second half.
Exeter went into this match having lost their last five contests in all tournaments, including their last two home games against Saracens in the Aviva Premiership and Toulon in the Heineken Cup.
The Chiefs made a handful of changes to their starting line-up with Damian Welch, Ben White and Kai Horstmann all returning in the pack and Steenson returning after injury at fly-half with Sam Hill in the centre.
Newcastle beat Italian outfit Calvisano home and away over the last two weekends in the Amlin Challenge Cup but have not been victorious in the Premiership since London Irish visited Kingston Park on November 10.
The return of Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair was one of six changes made by the Falcons, with Danny Barnes in the centre and Ryan Shortland on the wing. In the pack Kieran Brookes was tighthead prop, Carlo del Fava at lock and Ally Hogg at number eight.
The first points came when scrum-half Thomas had the ball knocked from his grasp at the back of a ruck and fly-half Steenson slotted the ball between the sticks.
The Chiefs maintained the pressure with the referee playing advantage, but play was pulled back when the touch judge noticed a high tackle from outside centre Danny Barnes on Thomas and Steenson landed his second penalty.
The Chiefs defence was tested as they halted a catch and drive on the line. When the home side mounted a counter-attack through Jack Nowell, the wing was shoulder charged by Barnes when chasing his kick ahead, allowing Steenson to kick his third penalty.
With his side trailing 9-0 and unable to breach the Chiefs defence, Falcons' director of rugby Dean Richards was down at pitchside very early for half-time to question some of the decisions of referee Greg Garner with the fourth official.
Dave Ewers was penalised for not releasing at the tackle and Scottish international Godman reduced the arrears at the break with what proved to be the visitors' only points.
Steenson had an opportunity to restore a nine-point advantage - but his 25-metre penalty attempt was held up by the strong wind and the ball fell short.
However, the home side continued to pin the visitors back in front of a crowd of 8,955.
Then came the decisive moment of the second half, when Thomas dummied and found a gap to score the first try of the game, with Steenson able to add the extra two points.
The Falcons came back into the game but their efforts to claim a losing bonus point came to nothing again due to unforced errors and a strong Chiefs defence.