Sunday 20 April 2014 – 3.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #20
Sunday is the third meeting this season between two teams who have had vastly different seasons. Saracens could well end their first full season at Allianz Park with a league and European double, since they need just two points to be certain of a home semi-final in the Premiership and face Clermont Auvergne at Twickenham in last four of the Heineken Cup a week tomorrow.
The Falcons meanwhile are still not mathematically certain of being in the top division next season after Worcester’s mini-resurgence recently and a record run of thirteen successive Premiership defeats, the latest a disappointing 40-12 reverse at London Irish on Sunday.
The Fez Heads are currently on a run of seven wins in eight games, the exception being a 26-7 loss at Northampton in the LV= Cup semis in March. Since then, they have beaten Harlequins well at Wembley, come away from Wasps in the league and Ulster in the Heineken Cup with victories, and last Sunday downed the Saints 28-24 in a top-of-the-table Premiership clash in Barnet. The two sides scored three tries apiece, Saracens’ coming through David Strettle, Kelly Brown and Marcelo Bosch, but three penalties and a conversion from the boots of Bosch and Owen Farrell to three conversions and a penalty for Stephen Myler gave the league leaders the win.
That result extended Mark McCall’s side’s lead at the top of the table to ten points over Northampton, who now have Leicester breathing down their neck for second place.
Overall, Saracens have won seventeen and lost just two of their nineteen matches in the Premiership this season. Those only losses were at Franklin’s Gardens in October and, more unlikely, at home to London Irish in early February, when a quick look at Sarries’ 23 suggests they could not really blame Six Nations call-ups for the shock reverse.
Other than that, their away record is exceptional with comfortable-looking wins at places like Kingsholm, the Rec and the Stoop. Saracens did lose to Toulouse in Europe both home and away, but big doubles over Connacht and Zebre allowed them to quality for the quarter-finals.
The Falcons have visited Allianz Park twice in 2013/14 of course, both times conceding in the forty-point range. In November in the league, a promising start and Phil Godman’s early penalty were blown away by five home tries from Charlie Hodgson, David Strettle (two), Jamie George and Alex Goode before fireworks off the pitch celebrated the upcoming Guy Fawkes’ Night.
Then in January, in the LV= Cup, Saracens followed up the previous day’s friendly victory over South Africans the Sharks with a 41-8 victory over a Falcons side featuring debutants Simon Hammersley, Glen Young, Ben Morris and Dan Temm as well as five more on the bench. Again, a quick look at Sarries’ squad for that game proves the incredible strength in depth that the Barnet side has, and that few other sides can match, let alone us.
After having a tricky time on Tyneside in the early years of professionalism, Saracens have won their last three at KP. Indeed, you have to go back to February 2009 and the third of seven wins out of eight under Steve Bates for our last victory over the Men in Black and Red. John Rudd was our unlikely try-scorer that night, while Tom May converted and kicked two penalties. Glen Jackson scored three tries for Sarries, who featured Adam Powell and Andy Saull in the starting fifteen.
On Sunday it will be two years to the day since Saracens last came north on a night of bitter disappointment for the in-form Falcons. Reverting to type against a below-par visiting team, we were sluggish and kick-a-lot for sixty minutes and then spent the last twenty pummeling Sarries, but it was too late and the 3-9 victory all-but cost us our Premiership place. Hopefully Dean Richards and co will not make the same mistake this Sunday.
Saracens in Newcastle:
22/04/1989 North Road Division 2 L9-47
22/10/1994 Kingston Park Division 2 L11-17
25/03/1998 Kingston Park Premiership 1 W30-25
31/10/1998 Gateshead Premiership 1 W43-12
28/02/1999 Kingston Park Cup QF W15-0
26/03/2000 Kingston Park Premiership 1 W15-6
26/11/2900 Kingston Park Premiership W32-27
05/05/2002 Kingston Park Premiership W47-18
19/01/2003 Kingston Park Challenge Cup QFL2 W31-29
04/05/2003 Kingston Park Premiership W26-22
14/09/2003 Kingston Park Premiership L20-25
17/10/2004 Kingston Park Premiership D17-17
28/01/2006 Kingston Park Premiership W21-16
09/03/2007 Kingston Park Premiership W20-14
17/02/2008 Kingston Park Premiership W16-14
20/02/2009 Kingston Park Premiership W13-9
04/10/2009 Kingston Park Premiership L15-22
22/10/2010 Kingston Park Premiership L13-15
20/04/2012 Kingston Park Premiership L3-9
By the time kick-off arrives on Sunday we will know the result of Bath v Worcester. If Worcester lose, then a win would make us mathematically safe, so if we aren’t going to go for this game, then when will we?
With Saracens no doubt having half an eye on Clermont, this might just be a great day. See you at KP!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)