Carlisle 26-24 Kendal

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Saturday 18 October 2014 – 3.00pm

Warwick Road, Carlisle

North One West


Defeat for Birkenhead Park meant that the mighty Kendal remain at the top of North One West despite suffering a first defeat of the season yesterday in a fierce Cumbrian derby at Carlisle.


Although the anticipated battle of livewire wingers Yousef Sahib and Dini Noyo didn’t materialise (both did score though), this blood-and-thunder affair at Warwick Road went right down to the wire and a Dan Holmes try two minutes from time sent the north Cumbrians wild, and left the travelling Kendal fans to contemplate defeat on their way back down the M6.


With Carlisle beginning the day ninth in the table and coming off a tight comeback win at New Brighton last week while Kendal were destroying Wigton at Mint Bridge, the first score unsurprisingly went to the visitors, Chris Park kicking a penalty for offside on the 22.


Carlisle went on the attack and went through the phases, but dogged defence from Kendal kept the hosts around the 22 line, young openside Henry Wainwright among those making fruitless drives.


Carlisle finally made the breakthrough just shy of the twenty-minute mark, with a 22 lineout on the left brought inside and James Roche found Matt Minett on his shoulder, the full-back cutting between Kendal’s central defenders to score under the posts. Damian Armstrong converted and Carlisle had a deserved lead.


The visitors from South Lakeland seemed galvanised by the try, with Dan Lowther making a probing run down the left but failing to find Noyo on the wing. The referee brought the play back for an offside penalty, but Kendal’s attack broke down when Lowther was unable to take Nathan Woolf’s pass in the centre.


Chris Park looked to have telegraphed a golden chance for the Hornets when he missed Alistair Thompson on the overlap, but Kendal recycled and a crossfield kick to the left was collected by Noyo for the South African winger’s sixth try in two games. Park’s conversion restored Kendal’s three-point lead.


However, Carlisle hit back before half-time. Minett took a high kick in the Kendal half and the hosts spread the ball right for Martin Brodie to break through Noyo’s tackle and score just to the right of the posts.


The conversion made the half-time score 14-10 as Armstrong pulled a long-range penalty wide late in the half.


The second period was initially scrappy, but Kendal took control of possession and a move involving Matty Kaye, Liam Hayton and rampaging cult hero prop Billy Coxon led the visitors from halfway to the 22. Carlisle’s Shane Moynihan strayed offside but a huge gust of wind pushed Park’s penalty wide.


Wainwright was then sent to the sin bin for a clear offside ten metres out from the posts and Kendal tapped and drove, but were held up.


Finally the breakthrough came on 54 minutes, with Gary Holmes almost making it to the line but Tom Voke finding a tiny gap and diving over to put Kendal back into the lead. Lowther, involved in most of Kendal’s good play all afternoon, increased the visitors’ lead with another try.


The league leaders from South Lakeland appeared in control now, and even stole a lineout on halfway to allow Noyo to go on a thirty-metre run but a tap on the 22 knocked the winger off-balance, saving the game for Carlisle.


With ten minutes to go, Carlisle began to build their attack and a series of penalties took them into the Kendal half. With seven minutes left, teenage winger Sahib took a difficult pass just outside the 22 and rounded the away defence on the left to score an excellent try, and Minett’s conversion reduced the gap to just three points.


Josh Holmes led Carlisle’s attempts to punch a hole in the visitors’ defence, and Minett also probing. The clock ticked down to 78 minutes, when Barry Earl crashed into the defence, and offloaded for replacement Dan Holmes to dive over on the right and send the home fans mad. Minett pulled the crucial conversion wide, but Kendal knocked on from the kick-off and after retaining possession, Carlisle put the ball out to make safe their victory.


Carlisle’s management were ecstatic after the victory, with head coach Gary Hewer praising his team’s determination and endeavour against a side he expects to still go on to top North One West come April.


*A shorter version of this report appeared in today’s Sunday Sun. Thanks to Gary Hewer for quotes and BBC’s James Clarke for assistance.


Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 43-19 Bucharest Wolves


Friday 17 October 2014 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 3 #1


Another funny atmosphere last night – nothing like the tension of Exeter, or the exuberance of London Welsh, but more a night out with a bit of rugby attached.


To be honest, as long as the Falcons showed Bucharest respect and played a professional game, we were always going to win tonight, just through superior quality. I think that’s how it turned out in the first half, our backs were just too fast, and Chris Harris and Tom Penny did their chances of further first team starts no harm at all with strong shows in attack and three tries between them.


So for most of the game, it was chatter rather than chanting, bar a few kids in the South Stand, which is nice to hear. If any of them are reading, sing your hearts out kids and have a great time!! Things threatened to get ever so slightly over tepid at one point in the second half as the visitors from Romanialand came out fighting (the second time, the first time they came out and went back in!) and took the game to the Falcons.


All credit to Bucharest for that, by the way. It would be all too easy for a team like them to come to England or France and engage in damage limitation, and if they do that then there’s no point in them playing. But the Wolves came to play and it is also thanks to them that we had an enjoyable game to watch at KP last night.


In the end, while apparently Deano was happy with the first half (and why not, at 36-7 up) but not the second, we got another half of defensive practice against a spirited, competent but limited team, like last week in Oxford. So it’s never a wasted half.


I was surprised to hear Andy Saull named man of the match tonight as I thought he was quiet, but then of course a lot of the work done by forwards off the ball can go unseen by the humble fan. As I said above, I thought both the starting centres were sound, and Eric Fry and Rob Hawkins definitely put themselves about while standing up to an aggressive Romanian scrum. Dom Barrow and Will Witty formed a decent partnership while the latter was on.


One player I was really impressed with tonight was Noah Cato – I know I’m one of his bigger fans among Geordies, but while I admit he did miss a howler of a tackle in the second half, literally seconds later he recovered to grab a guy he had no right to get to, and was constantly dangerous with the ball in hand.


Rory Clegg? Hit and miss I thought, a bit like his kicking. He is a competent player but perhaps not the right guy to play fly-half in an attacking gameplan, he seems far more of a defensive player than Socino and Godman. Good to get some time on the pitch though. I also think he was more fluid than Tom Catterick when the latter moved to first receiver, and I can’t imagine we’ll see Catterick out of the back three much in the future.


On the whole, the Falcons did what was required tonight, they got a bonus-point win by a margin of 24 points and you can’t really ask for more than that. Newport away this coming Friday will no doubt be a bit more difficult, but win that and we might be able to start thinking about a potential quarter-final, once we’ve got revenge on Stade by hammering them twice!!



(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Bucharest Wolves


Friday 17 October 2014 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 3 #1


I only watched four of our opening six Premiership games, one of them on TV, but it’s still been a stressful few weeks. Fortunately, that’s where cup games come in, and we now have a month to chill a bit and enjoy some lower-pressure matches, beginning with Bucharest Wolves coming to KP tomorrow night.


It would be a surprise if the Falcons didn’t begin our latest European Rugby Challenge Cup campaign with a win tomorrow night, as long as they are professional and patient. It won’t be easy though – Bucharest’s record in continental combat is not that terrible for team not from the top flight of European rugby. From 56 games in total, going back to 2004, they have won fourteen, lost 41 and drawn one, and have never lost all six games in the group stage (though they’ve also never qualified from a group).


Last year at this stage, the Falcons flew to Romania for the opening round and came home with a slender 12-13 win, thanks to an Adam Powell try. The return at KP in January was all but a dead rubber, as Brive defeated Calvisano on the same night to go through to the quarter-finals, but the Falcons completed their part of the job by beating Bucharest 28-0. Tom Catterick and Ryan Shortland scored tries, while Rory Clegg and Phil Godman’s boots completed the win alongside a penalty try.


The Falcons are defending a decent record on the opening day of European competition, having only lost our first game twice – away to Benetton Treviso in the then-European Shield in 2000, and at home to Newport in the Heineken Cup a year later.


On 17 October, things don’t look quite so good – in the professional era, we’ve never won on this day. The last outing was against Saracens at KP in 2004, when last-minute drop-goals from Mark Bartholomeusz and Jonny Wilkinson extended the level scoreline to 20-20. That game was perhaps most notable for the first return to KP of Falcons cup-winning captain Hugh Vyvyan, who led the Londoners. We have also lost to Sarries and Gloucester in the Premiership on this day, last winning in a friendly at Leeds 22 years ago.


Falcons on 17 October:

1903   Blaydon Wanderers (H)       L0-9

1931   Seghill (A)                                L3-11

1936   Old Novos (H)                        L12-25

1953   Darlington GSOB (H)           L6-20

1959   Sunderland (A)                      W5-3

1964   Huddersfield (A)                   W22-3

1970   Huddersfield (A)                   W17-13

1981   Vale of Lune (H)                    W25-15

1987   Orrell (H)                                W15-13

1992   Leeds (A)                                 W37-26

1998   Gloucester (A) Premiership L32-41

1999   Saracens (A) Premiership     L6-55

2004   Saracens (H) Premiership   D20-20


The other teams in our group are of course Stade Francais and Newport Gwent Dragons, and they get their race to the Stoop underway on Saturday night in the Stade Jean Bouin in Paris.

Dean Richards has made a number of changes to the team for tomorrow night, including bringing in a rookie centre partnership of Tom Penny and Chris Harris. Lee Smith, Warren Fury, Eric Fry and Rob Hawkins get starts, while the academy is represented in the pack by Will Witty and Dan Temm. Andy Saull captains from the back row and there is a welcome return on the bench for Rob Vickers.


15 Lee Smith, 14 Tom Catterick, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Tom Penny, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury; 1 Eric Fry, 2 Rob Hawkins, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Will Witty, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Dan Temm, 7 Andy Saull (c), 8 Mark Wilson.


Replacements 16 David Nelson, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Andy Davies, 22 Craig Willis, 23 Simon Hammersley.



Bucharest Wolves team: 15 Luke Samoa, 14 Florin Ionita, 13 Catalin Dascalu, 12 Csaba Gal (c), 11 Ionut Botezatu, 10 Eugene Jantjies, 9 Florin Surugiu, 1 Constantin Pristavita, 2 Alexandru-Claudiu Oancea, 3 Vlad Badalicescu, 4 Petre Neacsu, 5 Onal Ageacai, 6 Vali-Catalin Mototolea, 7 Razvan Ailenei, 8 Constantin Ene.


Replacements: 16 Catalin Beca, 17 Silviu Vasiliu, 18 Mihai Dico, 19 Alexandru Mitu, 20 Paul Ailenei, 21 Grigoras Diaconescu, 22 Florin Vlaicu, 23 Robert Neagu.



I like the look of our team, a good blend of youth and experience and some exciting pacy players. Particularly looking forward to seeing Tom Penny and Dan Temm in the first team.



(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Under the Clock Chronicles – season so far

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With six games gone and the league taking a month’s break for cup outings, this seems a good time to take stock of what’s been going on since September began.


We have played Leicester, Wasps and London Welsh away, and London Irish, Northampton and Exeter at home. From that we have two wins and a losing bonus point, so nine points. I think if you reversed the London Irish and Exeter scores, then perhaps we have done pretty much as many will have expected since the start of the season, or at least dared to hope for.


Underneath the results, which leave us eleventh in the table but far closer to tenth and even fifth than bottom, we have been competitive in every game, and bar Juan Pablo Socino’s kicking off-day against Irish and a horrific first half hour against Northampton, we could well be sitting higher.


That false start against the champions and the end of the Wasps game, when we seemed to run out of steam a bit, have been the only times we haven’t really been competitive so far. The attacking style of play, led by the pace and trickery of Socino and Sinoti Sinoti, has been a revelation, and it’s actually fun to watch the Falcons in a way it rarely was last season.


Eight points ahead of London Welsh is perhaps more than we had hoped for at this stage, but then Welsh have been poor. Saturday at the Kassam was the first time in six games they have conceded below forty points this season, have scored just 47 points and conceded a massive 272 (we have the next-worst attack on 115, while the next-worst defence is Sale’s at 168). The Exiles’ points difference of minus 225, and they have nothing to show but a solitary try bonus point.


While we shouldn’t be complacent, if we continue to play as we have so far for most of the rest of the season, we shouldn’t have any relegation worries, even if Welsh do get it together by Christmas. I expect we will beat last season’s points total and challenge for tenth place if not ninth.


The key is to keep doing what has been working this season, and not fall back into the horrors of 2013/14.


So my summary of our first six games so far is – hit par, must keep improving.



(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: London Welsh 3-23 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 11 October 2014 – 2.30pm

Kassam Stadium, Oxford

Aviva Premiership #6


That was a funny game yesterday. Strange atmosphere, Falcons dominant in the first half and dominated but still triumphant in the second. 3-23 was probably in the middle of expectations but looking at the game overall, it was a satisfying afternoon’s work.


I had thought that a big bonus point win would demoralise Welsh and give us a big boost, while a tight win after Welsh threw the kitchen sink at us would do the same. We got a bit of both, without the bonus point.


That defence in the second half was fantastic, even in the face of several penalties and a yellow card, and should give the team plenty of heart. As others have said, Mark Wilson’s absence for ten minutes in the bin made such little difference that some of us had forgotten he was even off.


To be honest, we were helped a lot by Welsh’s basics deserting them at times – several of their attacking moves broke down through knock-ons. But then our upfront defence will have added pressure too.


It’s tricky to pick a man of the match from that solid performance. Welsh really struggled to live with Sinoti Sinoti, as many teams do, and Ruki Tipuna definitely bested Piri Weepu at scrum-half in the first 40. Dom Barrow was perhaps the forward with the most drive towards the opposition.


What was very good to see was Rory Clegg’s performance off the bench. Sharp and mostly accurate with the boot, he opened the play up and brought people in. He doesn’t make breaks like JP Socino, but then that’s why he’s not first choice. Clegg’s still a competent player and I’m sure he will make some important contributions this season.


So this win puts us in a decent position now, eight ahead of Welsh after what should have been their easiest game of the season.


We can hopefully now reduce the pressure a bit, kick on and get some better results in the league, perhaps a losing bonus point at least at Bath (probably the best we should expect), and then at least one win from Gloucester and Sale at home.


What obviously we can’t do is relax and get complacent, as if Worcester had got things together a bit earlier last season we might have paid a real price for our calamitous form.


I don’t think that will happen now though. We have four cup games, from which three wins is a realistic target, to get combinations together and fringe players sharper, and then hopefully we can give Bath a little shock.


After looking adrift with London Welsh two weeks ago, the Falcons may still be in eleventh place in the table but are just two points behind Sale and Wasps (ahead of Wasps’ game with Bath today) and three behind London Irish, so if we can get a few more wins this season, we might be able to get a respectable league position come May.



A few thoughts now on the Kassam Stadium, where Welsh play to meet Premiership criteria.


I can’t believe that playing in front of 2,000 people, 10,000 empty seats, and two huge empty stands serves Premiership Rugby better than playing at a traditional ground like Old Deer Park.


Welsh must be losing a fair whack of money on that ground, there was little atmosphere among the home fans, and it can’t be much fun for the players to play in front of a small crowd in a big ground. At times, when we were quiet too, yesterday had the air of a training game.


Still, that is the apples and the Falcons got four welcome and vital points. We away fans had a cracking time. Good stuff.

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This weekend’s Eddie Stobarts:

Shelley Ann

Megan Jane

Jasmine Rose

Fiona Lynne

Lily Kathleen



(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: London Welsh v Newcastle Falcons


Saturday 11 October 2014 – 2.30pm

Kassam Stadium, Oxford

Aviva Premiership #6

This is the one we’ve been waiting for – the first Big One of the season, and for some, a grudge match after the well-known events surrounding London Welsh’s promotion in 2012. The right decision was made, even if it was in controversial circumstances, and finally now we meet the Exiles in the Premiership.

The table already shows the importance of this game – Welsh are bottom just one point from their five games (a try bonus point at Bath), while the Falcons have five in eleventh, and it is a further five points to Leicester. So it looks like one of us will be ending the table twelfth, but a victory tomorrow to top off Sunday’s win over Exeter would put the Falcons in a good position on that score, considering our respective starts to the season.

While the Falcons have been competitive for the most part, Welsh have struggled. After a 0-52 defeat to Exeter in Oxford on the opening weekend, Justin Burnell’s side have conceded over forty points in each game, and over fifty twice more, including another 52-0 loss at Harlequins last weekend.

That result will have been particularly disappointing for the Exiles after they gained plaudits for the previous weekend’s home performance against Gloucester. 10-15 down to the Cherry and Whites after an hour. The visitors still pulled away though and triumphed 10-46.

On the third weekend, Welsh also conceded 46 at Sale, following on from a 53-26 defeat at Bath where the Exiles got their first and so far only point of the season, thanks to tries from Seb Jewell, Seb Stegmann, Lachlan McCaffrey and former Falcons forward Pete Browne.

Browne is one of two ex-Falcons in the Welsh squad, the other being club captain Tom May, a true KP legend who led the Exiles to the Championship title last term.

May is one of a number of household names at the Kassam Stadium, several of whom were among the twenty-five-odd players signed this summer following promotion. They include experienced Premiership campaigner Dean Schofield, ex-Harlequins centre Tim Molenaar, former England international Olly Barkley and biggest of all, All Black great and World Cup winner Piri Weepu.

It appears that Welsh are struggling to gel a team together so far, and the Gloucester defeat also suggests a fitness issue. Tomorrow will not be easy, but it is a big opportunity for the Falcons to get another win.

We have met London Welsh on five previous occasions, the biggest being a cup semi-final against an Exiles team featuring Wales international John Taylor. Gosforth won 18-12 and the game was featured on TV’s Rugby Special. However, this will be the first time we have played Welsh in the professional era.

Gosforth v London Welsh

02/04/1977 Old Deer Park           Cup SF           W18-12

17/09/1977 North Road                Club Match    W12-10

07/02/1987 Old Deer Park          Club Match    L9-10

23/04/1988 North Road              Division 2       L12-14

12/11/1988 North Road                Division 2       W34-26

Unsurprisingly, the Falcons have named an unchanged side for tomorrow’s game:

15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Juan Pablo Socino, 9 Ruki Tipuna; 1 Kieran Brookes, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Josh Furno, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Catterick



London Welsh team: 15 Seb Jewell, 14 Seb Stegmann, 13 Nic Reynolds, 12 Tom May* (c), 11 Nick Scott, 10 Olly Barkley*, 9 Piri Weepu*, 1 Pablo Henn*, 2 Nathan Morris, 3 Taione Vea*, 4 Matt Corker, 5 James Down, 6 Peter Browne 7 Richard Thorpe, 8 Chris Hala’ufia*.


Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Shane Cahill, 18 Jack Gilding, 19 Dean Schofield*, 20 Ben Pienaar, 21 Rob Lewis, 22 Tristan Roberts, 23 Rhys Crane.



This game is certainly London Welsh’s best chance of a win this season, but if we can win then one might think that they shouldn’t win again before Christmas, having to encounter Wasps and Saracens away and Leicester and Northampton at home before Santa does his thing.


Eight points ahead, give or take a point, and the Falcons can kick on without always looking over their shoulder. On current form, we have to be favourites, and can hopefully celebrate again tomorrow night.



(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 29-24 Exeter Chiefs


Sunday 5 October 2014 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #5


I really struggled to sleep last night. I was probably still high from the afternoon. How I made it back to Cumbrialand straight after the match I don’t know, I felt high as a kite the whole drive, but it was just lovely to be contemplating a win for once.


Yes, it’s the morning after the Falcons’ first Premiership win for a few weeks short of a year, and what a win it was! A topsy-turvy game with a powerful and committed Exeter team that looked to have taken control with a 17-24 lead in the second half, until Tom Catterick’s converted try leveled the scores. The atmosphere, already hot, became thoroughly defiant at that stage. It was the spirit of Sale in 2012, of the playoff against Leeds. This was it – we are not going to lose.


The last few minutes after Noah Cato’s winning try were so horribly nerve-wracking – counting down the clock, the horror whenever Exeter got yet another penalty. All we can do is keep shouting and backing the team. And when the ball didn’t go straight out from that final scrum – aargh!!!


The relief when the ball flew high to the West Stand, the joy, the 500lb gorilla disappearing… fantastic! This was sport at its best, with tension, commitment, defiance, a cracking atmosphere. Would I swap Northampton’s start to the season for ours? Yes. Would I swap the way people are talking about Bath for the way people are talking about the Falcons? Yes. Would I swap places with a Bath or Northampton fan today? Not a chance.


All credit to the team for not letting their heads go down, whether it was at Exeter’s first try, the second that came from such a calamity from Alex Tait and Sinoti Sinoti, or going seven points down. There was real belief among the players, belief in themselves and each other, and belief in what they were trying to do. It has taken five games, but we have the win and now we have to keep doing the right thing and kick on. A look at the fixture list shows a golden opportunity to put together a little run of wins.


We’re not now suddenly going to climb the table and make a late dash for the playoffs, but there is some hope now that the monkey of twenty defeats is off the team’s baxk.


All eyes now on the big game at London Welsh on Saturday. On current form, we could well destroy them.


Yesterday’s Stobarts:

Abigail Elizabeth

Zara Isla

Lorien Dawn

Sam Jo

Julia Claire

Sandra Elaine




(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)