Match reaction: Leicester Tigers 36-17 Newcastle Falcons

Sportsmanship.preview

Saturday 6 September 2014 – 3.00pm

Welford Road, Leicester

Aviva Premiership #1

 

Where better to begin married life than Leicester? That had been my first thought when the fixtures were published and had us at Welford Road today, but deciding it wouldn’t be fair to leave the in-laws and the lads to clear up a geet massive tent, the new Mrs Leipy and I gave today’s game a miss. There was also the potential for big exhaustion after a week full of hard work and a very emotional day yesterday, potential that was realised.

 

After a fair amount of work got done this morning and early afternoon, I managed to get two hours off to go home and listen to the commentary. Obviously the Falcons lost by what on the surface looks a decent margin, but in the first half we restricted Leicester to a few penalties and played some good attacking rugby, according to Smithy and Dean Gray. Simon Hammersley sounded quite involved and Sinoti Sinoti was lively.

 

I missed the start of the second half after falling asleep, probably the most exciting period of the match with a few tries scored. As often happens when you play top teams, when Leicester got their first couple of tries they got more, pulled away and got the bonus point Richard Cockerill will have been looking for. But we kept fighting and got a second try, so there’s positives there.

 

Losing 36-17 away at Leicester, two tries, holding out for more than a half, is not a disaster for a team that will make progress by finishing tenth this season. As I often say after games like this, far better teams than the Falcons will go to Leicester this season and lose by this much, or more.

 

One of the negatives today must be the early injury to Rob Vickers, which exposes our lack of depth at loosehead where many fans seem unconvinced by Eric Fry (I myself haven’t really formed much of an opinion so far). If the injury to Vickers is a lengthy one, you would think that the management will look to dip into the market if a decent player is available.

 

It will be interesting to read the thoughts of fans who went to Welford Road today on our apparent progression to a more attacking style, individuals’ performances (particularly Rogers and the fly-halves, and of course Alex Tuilagi) and the referee, who angered the BBC commentators and many on Twitter with what they saw as strange decisions. I’m going to guess though that Luke Pearce wasn’t actually named man of the match, and nor did he do a lap of honour.

 

So the season is underway and we are scoring tries. Last season we didn’t score a try in the Premiership until the fourth game, and had only two after five matches, so we can see that as an improvement. With London Irish also tipped by many pundits to struggle next season, next Sunday’s game on Kingston Park’s plastic pitch could be an interesting one.

 

 

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

Premiership 7s group reaction

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Saturday 2 August 2014

Northern Echo Arena, Darlington

Premiership 7s Group D

 

Despite a tricky opening game against Leicester, in the end the Falcons were not massively troubled on the way to keeping up a perfect record of twelve wins from twelve games in Premiership 7s groups. Our young side now move on to the finals at the Twickenham Stoop on Friday night.

 

The late switch of venue from Kingston Park to the Northern Echo Arena in Darlington did not prevent a big crowd from turning out on a wet night in the North East, indeed three coachloads headed down the A1 to join the rest of the 7,000 in attendance. There was a fun atmosphere and some exciting rugby on show.

 

Tom Catterick was named player of the evening, and he certainly led from the front, however for me the Falcons’ stars were the speedy Simon Hammersley, who will surely get more cup outings at full-back this season, and Dan Temm, whose back row skills were evident in many ruck scavengings.

 

The Falcons just about made it past Leicester in the opening game 26-21, rescued by two second-half scores by captain Catterick. London Welsh beat Sale but were then downed by the Tigers.

 

In our second game, Sale were put to the sword with relative ease, Simon Hammersley and Ben Morris among the scorers to particularly impress in a 27-7 win that was only not a nilling because of a late Sharks consolation.

 

After Leicester beat Sale to ensure a whitewash for the Mancs, the Falcons held out London Welsh’s early attacks and tries from Chris Harris and Catterick ensured the evening’s plate would stay in the North East. In four group stages in this competition the Falcons are yet to lose a single game.

 

It doesn’t really matter of course, and will have no bearing on the Premiership season to come, but winning is always nice and the players involved last night will have had a confidence boost as well as, for most of them as youngsters, benefitting from the experience of playing in front of a big crowd.

 

My impression of the Northern Echo Arena was that a fair bit of it did not appear to have been brilliantly maintained since its opening eleven years ago, although that is perhaps not surprising given the former Darlington FC’s financial struggles. The concourse was not as attractive as many I’ve seen, but it wasn’t really a major problem and if Mowden Park continue to improve then perhaps they can sort everything out. The ‘clubhouse’ bar in the outside of the stadium looked quite nice, though I didn’t get a chance to try it out.

 

The other finalists for Friday are Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Gloucester, London Irish, Northampton and final hosts Harlequins. The teams will be split into two groups of four, each playing three games and the two group winners advancing to the final. Due to the expanded format, the first game will begin at 6pm, so if you’re going and don’t want to miss any of the action, plan accordingly!

 

Looking forward to it.

 

 

P.S. I’ve decided to be loyal to my adopted Cumbrian country by noting all of the Eddie Stobart lorries I see on rugby trips this season. We didn’t see a single one coming back today, though some of that may have been because for at least twenty minutes, the M6 was deluged with rain and I could see about fifty metres ahead, and not enough of the wing mirror to make overtaking even approaching safe. Lots of fun. Saw a few Stobarts yesterday though.

 

This weekend’s Eddie Stobarts:

Ruby Emma

Jodie Marie

Courtney Liana (the favourite so far)

Lucy Eleanor

Catherine Florence

 

 

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 18-41 Leicester Tigers

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Sunday 2 March 2014 – 2.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #16

 

Aargh! After two great second-half performances playing catch-up, today the Falcons were the better team in the first forty but couldn’t quite hold onto the lead to half-time, and then Leicester pulled away in the second half.

 

Worcester lost again and their bonus point at Harlequins yesterday doesn’t do them much good. There isn’t much pressure for us to get the eighty-minute performance that will surely deliver a first league win in over four months (it’ll be nearly five come Gloucester) but it’d be nice to get another victory this season. Worcester at home would be the ideal one, and I’m sure we will win that.

 

At least Leicester had to work for their win, like Northampton did last week and Harlequins before that. Too often this season teams have just strolled over us with little resistance, but that’s not been the case recently and not before time.

 

I suppose it’s disappointing that we’re playing better and still losing but remember that Harlequins, Northampton and the Tiggers are all top teams that would expect, nine times out of ten, to have no trouble beating the Falcons. So that’s got to be encouraging.

 

Lee Smith seemed to have a good debut, nailing a difficult kick early on to probably give him some confidence. He looks a well-built bloke, it’ll be interesting to see whether he is a similar weight next season, but didn’t do anything wrong today that I saw.

 

I also thought Cato, Wilson and Blair had good games. Why oh why Blair was taken off for Fury I have no idea (maybe the computer said Blair was just about to cross into tiredness), although I won’t condemn Fury for knocking on with a quick penalty. Good idea, but the execution was lacking. Every player makes such mistakes. Execution is usually correct for most players – bad decision-making is harder to improve.

 

Hodgson was quite lively again in his ten minutes. I wonder if, as the BT Sport commentators suggested, he will start to get more game time once we have (hopefully) beaten Worcester and are safe, or become mathematically safe. It might be a bit late then if indeed no contract offer is on the table now, because as far as I know other clubs can now take an interest and Rotherham at least want to sign Joel.

 

I’d let him and Kibirige loose on Gloucester, but that’s just me.

 

Watching on TV, I could get a better perspective on a lot of refereeing decisions. The yellow cards for Youngs and Tuilagi looked correct, but Flood will probably consider himself harshly treated, it looked like he was genuinely trying to catch the ball. Overall, I don’t think Greg Garner had a massive influence on the result; the Falcons gave away silly penalties at crucial times, most notably after going 3-0 up and at the start of the second half, and Leicester just kicked themselves out of our reach.

 

One lineout, however, was about as straight as John Prescott’s walk home after a night on the Guinness. (Little Hull reference there – boy have I been paying for last night all day today!)

 

So there’s still a fair bit to be optimistic about. We are starting to score tries finally. The win will come, probably against Worcester but who knows, we won at Gloucester two years ago and they are suffering too. It’s possible. We have two weeks to work out how to do it.

 

 

 

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Leicester Tigers

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Sunday 2 March 2014 – 2.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #16

 

Hopefully on Sunday afternoon I’ll be feeling really fresh after a calm weekend away, ready to watch the Falcons beat Leicester, perhaps with a sneaky can of beer.

 

More likely I’ll be feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck, wishing for full-time so I can sleep and recover after my brother’s stag weekend. It’s probably going to be brutal, although fortunately we’re getting an hour and a half off on Saturday afternoon since we’ll be at a football match.

 

Fortunately the Falcons-Leicester game is on TV so no way I’m rushing back to Newcastle. It could be a cracker. Certainly, with the Tiggers having their worst season for probably ten years, we’ll probably never have a better chance to beat them. In fourth place, fourteen points behind second-placed Saracens, it looks like Leicester will have to settle for an away semi-final in the playoffs, if they win the tense battle they are in to get there.

 

Bath are looking good in third with 49 points, Leicester have 44, with Harlequins and Sale on 41 and 39 respectively. Richard Cockerill’s side overtook Harlequins on Sunday with a 15-20 win at London Irish after the Queens were downed at Worcester 23 hours earlier. Niki Goneva, Ben Youngs and Logovi’i Mulipola were the try-scorers for the travelling Midlanders.

 

Leicester are five games unbeaten in the Premiership at the moment since a 49-10 trouncing at Saracens just before Christmas and have also this month had tight wins at Worcester and at home to Gloucester. As well as success at the Madejski and ever-so-tensely at Sixways, the Tigers have won at Exeter and Gloucester in the league as well as at Montpellier and Treviso in the Heineken Cup to help secure a quarter-final at Clermont Auvergne.

 

Leicester normally provide a decent proportion of the England team but their last representative in Stuart Lancaster’s Six Nations squad, Dan Cole, has joined Geoff Parling and Tom Croft on the injured list. The Youngs brothers are out of favour too. Surely players like Jordan Crane and Graham Kitchener will not be too far away from the national side however. Club captain Toby Flood’s England career appears to be over after he was overlooked for the current campaign and has agreed to move to France in the summer.

 

The Tigers have a good record at KingstonPark in recent years with three successive victories in the North East before our relegation. The last of those games was an epic Saturday afternoon meeting in September 2011, when Kieran Brookes and Micky Young made quick returns to KP with their new club and Brookes sadly suffered a serious injury from which his Leicester career never really recovered. James Grindal started and now-retired Ben Woods was on the bench with Brookes and Young.

 

The Falcons were 11-11 at half-time but were finally squeezed out 26-27 forty minutes later. The Falcons’ try-scorers were Luke Fielden, Tim Swinson and the lesser-spotted Greg Goosen, with Jimmy Gopperth converting one and adding three penalties. Billy Twelvetrees’ four lazy penalties earned him boos and the short-lived nickname Billy Twelveminutes, along with tries from Ed Slater, Steve Mafi and Falcons transfer target Julian Salvi.

 

Tiggers in Newcastle:

15/04/1974      North Road                  Club Match                  W28-18

19/04/1976      North Road                  Club Match                  W27-9

20/04/1985      North Road                  Club Match                  W20-6

15/04/1989      North Road                  Club Match                  L14-47

22/02/1992      KingstonPark              Cup QF                          L0-10

09/10/1993      KingstonPark              Division 1                     L13-22

22/02/1997      KingstonPark              Cup QF                           L8-18

04/05/1998      Gateshead                    Premiership 1               W27-10

02/05/1999      KingstonPark              Premiership 1               L12-21

05/11/1999      KingstonPark              Premiership 1               D12-12

27/08/2000      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L22-25

02/09/2001      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W19-16

16/03/2003      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W24-22

04/04/2004      KingstonPark              Premiership                  D25-25

02/10/2004      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L15-44

24/02/2006      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W24-16

07/01/2007      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W31-29

04/05/2008      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W28-25

27/03/2009      KingstonPark              Premiership                  W14-10

18/04/2010      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L7-31

22/04/2011      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L13-24

17/09/2011      KingstonPark              Premiership                  L26-27

 

Lee Smith makes his Falcons debut on the left wing and Phil Godman, Andy Saull, Kieran Brookes and Scott Lawson return to the starting line-up. The final change is Adam Powell in for Jamie Helleur.

 

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Lee Smith, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson.

 

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Danny Barnes.

 

 

Tigers team:

15 Mathew Tait, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Ben Youngs,1 Marcos Ayerza, 2 Tom Youngs, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Louis Deacon, 5 Ed Slater (c), 6 Jamie Gibson, 7 Pablo Matera, 8 Jordan Crane.

 

Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Boris Stankovich, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Thomas Waldrom, 21 David Mele, 22 Toby Flood, 23 Adam Thompstone.

 

 

Word is that this game could be a sell-out – I can’t remember the last time we last had a full house. If ever there was a time for a big performance, this is it. The next home game is Worcester and a win with a big effort should get a couple of hundred extra tickets shifted for the Warriors game at least. The last two games surely haven’t been flukes, lets keep things going and get a win on Sunday!

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Leicester Tigers 31-6 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 21 September 2013 – 3.00pm

Welford Road, Leicester

Aviva Premiership #3

In some ways the score didn’t reflect the game yesterday, the Falcons played with a lot of heart and never let their heads drop. They continued to attack late on but again could not find the key to unlock a Premiership defence.

Then again, that is a bit of a concern. On top of that, I never felt like Leicester ever really got out of second gear yesterday, and that had they been forced to step things up, they would have done so. The gap in quality between the two sides was clear.

It was very much a routine victory for the Tigers, who got their five points through some simple yet very effective play, a mixture of the power of the forwards and of course Manu ‘bunny ears’ Tuilagi, who punches holes in our defence all afternoon, and the guile and speed of Dan Bowden and Toby Flood.

The relative ease of the win was reflected in a subdued atmosphere at Welford Road, something we travelling Geordies have got used to there over the years. The home fans were no doubt saving themselves for the derby against Northampton in two weeks, although I am told that one Tigger was so riled by some cheerful and cheering Falcons fans that he reported them to a steward.

After two early tries, the Falcons managed to keep in touch with Leicester for most of the first half and were 12-6 down after Rory Clegg’s half-hour drop-goal on a rare visit to the home 22, though to me this seemed like a sign that our team were not confident of scoring a try. Minutes later, Blaine Scully had extended the lead and the bonus point came after half-time.

The difference in the two teams became apparent when the substitutions started – Leicester brought on Lions Dan Cole and Geoff Parling. With respect, Gary Strain and Sean Tomes aren’t near the same level.

There were a few good performances from the Falcons – Carlo del Fava had one of the best games I’ve seen him play for us, making some great tackles and putting in some excellent work in the loose. In the back row, Mark Wilson continued his good start to the season, and if he can keep this form up then surely a Saxons call cannot be far away. Warren Fury has massively improved his service since the regular season in the Championship, he looked again like the player we saw in the play-offs.

Of the backs, Alex Tait was again the pick for me, and many home fans were also complimentary about his performance. Any idea that he cannot take a high ball or tackle (an accusation nobody can now level at Noah Cato, incidentally) must now be dispelled.

One of two players I won’t name did not have great games, sadly, but nobody gave up and that cannot be said for every team we have sent to Welford Road in the past.

In the end, no travellers seemed to disappointed yesterday. Skybet had Leicester 1-200 to win and there is a big gulf between the two teams that, if it will be bridged, will take several years. We can do it but it will take time. If we were to get nothing out of the game points-wise yesterday, then at least there are positives such as a solid scrum and some dynamism from several players, as well as lessons of what needs to be worked on and also the need to be utterly clinical at this level.

At least it’s only Gloucester at home next week, the last time we lost that one we had Flood and Parling in our team.

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

Match preview: Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons

tigger

Saturday 21 September 2013 – 3.00pm

Welford Road, Leicester

Aviva Premiership #3

The annoying thing about being in the Premiership is that you get games like this – games where you have to use all of your imaginative effort to visualise a win, and even then it normally a defeat.

Our last win away to current title-holders Leicester was back in the Championship-winning season 1997/98 on Dean Richards’ last game in a green, red and white shirt.

Pat Lam scored two tries for the Falcons that night along with one from Nick Popplewell, while Rob Andrew kicked two conversions, a penalty and a drop-goal. Apart from a penalty try, all of Leicester’s points came from the boot of Joel Stransky. Richards was joined in the home side by Craig Joiner, Richard Cockerill, Martin Johnson and Neil Back alongside other internationals, and Lewis Moody came off the bench for wor Deano in the second half.

That game was only our second away win over the Tigers, the other coming way back in 1977 when Gosforth’s success had been exemplified by the addition of Leicester to the fixture list. There was also a violent 16-16 Friday night draw in October 2005, which few people in attendance will ever forget for several reasons – Harry Ellis’s cynical charge on Jonny Wilkinson, a penalty by Matthew Burke that never was, and red cards for Andy Perry and Julian White. The Falcons’ try scorer on that enthralling evening? Robbie Morris.

Falcons in LE2:

20/09/1969 Club Match                            L6-48

31/03/1975 Club Match                            L15-18

11/04/1977 Club Match                            W18-6

13/03/1982 John Player Cup QF              L9-18

19/04/1986 National Merit Table Division A     L15-56

28/02/1987 John Player Cup 4th round   L6-19

16/04/1988 Club Match                            L0-65

12/03/1994 Courage League Division 1  L5-66

30/12/1997 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1W25-19

12/12/1998 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1L18-31

12/02/2000 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1L26-34

17/03/2001 Zurich Premiership               L7-51

13/04/2002 Zurich Premiership               L12-20

21/09/2002 Zurich Premiership               L9-52

26/09/2003 Zurich Premiership               L21-28

19/02/2005 Zurich Premiership               L10-83

14/10/2005 Guinness Premiership          D16-16

27/01/2007 Guinness Premiership          L5-39

26/01/2008 Guinness Premiership          L14-41

20/12/2008 Guinness Premiership          L3-20

19/09/2009 Guinness Premiership          L6-15

27/11/2010 Aviva Premiership                L19-44

04/02/2012 LV= Cup                                 L19-24

Leicester gaffer Richard Cockerill is still in the midst of his matchday coaching ban for a malfeasance (if that’s the right word, I’d never heard it before yesterday) at the Premiership Final back in May when he got a bit radgie on the touchline.

No doubt he’ll be getting quite passionate while watching the game anyway, as apparently his fellow DOR and ex-hooker Steve Diamond was while we were beating Sale last weekend.

So far this year the Tiggers have, like ourselves, won one match and lost another in the Premiership. A routine opening weekend victory over Worcester by a score of 32-15 came at a price with Tom Croft sustaining a season-ending injury in the bonus-point win, and this was followed up by a 27-20 loss at Bath on the 100th anniversary of the fixture.

Niki Goneva, Ed Slater and Steve Mafi scored for the Midlanders at the Rec while scrum-half David Mele knocked over a conversion and penalty, but former Welford Roader George Ford’s five penalties and scores from Jonathan Joseph and Matt Banahan gave the hosts the win.

Ford’s transfer from Leicester to Bath this summer was rather unusual in that previous players to make that journey had been towards the end of their careers, namely Dan Hipkiss and Lewis Moody, although fellow half-back Micky Young did go with him. With Toby Flood named as Leicester captain this season and Ford starting the season strongly in the South West, he looks to have made the right decision so far.

No point going through Leicester’s star-studded squad, as the team below is shocking enough, but suffice to say it is brimming with internationals and has a strength in depth that most Premiership clubs, never mind we, can only dream of. Former Falcons players are many, from Lions star Geoff Parling and England’s Flood, to former Newcastle youth player Fraser Balmain and of course the revitalised Mathew Tait.

OK, so there aren’t that many right now, considering James Grindal, Micky Young, Kieran Brookes and Ben Woods have also passed through the door on Aylestone Road in recent years, but it’s a few.

Dean Richards has sprung a couple of selection surprises for tomorrow’s game with James Fitzpatrick and Chris York starting. For Fitzy, it’s a chance for redemption after a yellow card in our last visit to Welford Road, in February last year, and he replaces the injured Danny Barnes. Oliver Tomaszczyk’s illness sees Kieran Brookes back in the front row alongside Rob Vickers, and Mark Wilson and Carlo del Fava are in the starting XV. Dom Barrow moves to the second row in a team that looks built for power through the middle but pace on the outside, and Rory Clegg makes a first start of his second spell in the North East alongside Warren Fury.

There are, surprisingly if there are no injury reasons, no Ally Hogg, Scott MacLeod and Mike Blair in the 22.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Dominic Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Chris York.

Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Alex Crockett.

Captain Flood and Lions Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs start tomorrow for Leicester, alongside some other considerable talents. Jordan Crane in the back row has had some immense games against us over the years while Dan Bowden at centre is a crafty player who can make something out of nothing in a second. I mentioned strength in depth – compare the two benches if you’re not of a nervous disposition.

Leicester: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Boris Stankovich, 2 Neil Briggs, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Jamie Gibson, 8 Jordan Crane.

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 David Mele, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Niall Morris.

It’s going to be tough, but as Adam Powell said in an interview yesterday, these are the games we’re in the Premiership for. Lets have a good sing as we always do at Welford Road and, with a lot of effort and belief, who knows what might happen?

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 22-19 Sale Sharks

Friday 30 March 2012, 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #19

 

 

ESPN no doubt put on last night’s Leicester v Worcester match at Welford Road because they knew it would attract more TV viewers than our game against Sale.

 

It probably did. However, while Leicester were whupping a 14-man Warriors side, an absolutely epic last half hour at Kingston Park brought us back from the brink and kept the Falcons alive in the relegation battle.

 

For most of the first 50 minutes last night we were bloody awful. It was like Bates and Tait had been snuck back in when we weren’t looking. All of the passionate attacking play from the previous few games had been replaced with aimless, hopeless kicking, with no interest in chasing.

 

Sale on the other hand counter-attacked with pace and scored three tries in the first half. Even at just seven points down at half-time it was hard to see how we would get anything from the game, and that would almost certainly condemn the Falcons to 12th place in the Premiership.

 

Gary Gold’s team talk would have been easy: “I’m going at the end of the season so it doesn’t matter to me. It’s most of you lot that will have to play in the Championship.”

 

Whatever happened at half-time seemed to stir some fight in the team and the match was won by sheer force of will, a bunch of players willing to put themselves on the line, backed by a crowd showing no regard for either their heart rates or the need to speak today.

 

On 52 minutes, Jimmy Gopperth sent a penalty to touch and on ran James Hudson and Adam Balding. Hudson took the catch and as the Falcons drove for the line, the South Stand roared themselves hoarse and at the bottom of a pile of bodies, the referee pointed up and down to send every home fan mad.

 

It was now level at 19-19, and the Falcons plugged away, controlling possession and territory but seeming to be unable to create another chance. Two penalties were given away in the Sale 22.

 

With 10 minutes to go Gopperth had a chance to give us the lead. Hearts were in mouths as the penalty drifted across the goal.

 

I kept thinking “Not another bloody draw!” as I and all other Falcons fans at KP continued to shout and sing as loud as our voices could still let us.

 

Four minutes left, a penalty straight in front of the posts. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Tom May’s vital kick against Gloucester in January 2009, the most celebrated penalty in our history.

 

This kick equalled it, The Wizard sent the ball high and true into the dark Geordie sky and the touch judges flags rose in approval.

 

Just a few minutes now. Could we hold on? Two words foremost in my mind – “NOTHING STUPID!!!”

 

The pick and drive was controlled perfectly, and once we had counted down to zero Peter Stringer whacked the ball into the West Stand and four absolutely priceless points were safe.

 

So now attention turns to High Wycombe tomorrow when Wasps, in theory, have to win to have any chance of avoiding a last-day showdown at Adams Park.

 

As for us, if we can take this spirit into the Gloucester and particularly Saracens games, and marry it with the quality we saw against Irish, then there is still hope.

 

I took wor lass to KP for the first time last night, and though she’s not really a rugby fan she couldn’t help get caught up in the atmosphere and the tension. As I said to her later, winning 50-0 every game is probably nice, but would I rather that than the excitement and nerves we go through? Not for a second.

 

Our win last night meant so much more in the grand scheme of things than Leicester’s over Worcester. How difficult it was to achieve and the effort the players and supporters put into it makes it so, so satisfying.

 

I wonder whether ESPN are thinking they picked the wrong game to televise?

 

 

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