Match reaction: Stade Francais 31-24 Newcastle Falcons

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Thursday 11 December 2014 – 8.45pm

Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

European Challenge Cup Pool 3 #4

 

Aargh! It was one of those games where you fear to watch, but cannot turn away. What a performance by the less-than-full-strength Falcons against a really good side. We really could have won tonight, but it just wasn’t to be.

 

 

So I was really excited about this game, I got me Carling with a code to watch Sky Sports so everything was in hand on that score. Dinner was ready. At 7.10pm I headed out to pick up Mrs L off the train, the plan being to be home by 7.35pm in plenty of time for kick-off.

 

Of course, Transpennine Express aren’t called Express for their incredible punctuality, so it was a race back to catch kick-off, but fortunately I only missed the first thirty seconds or so. It wasn’t long before I cheered loudly for our first try!

 

After a dream start for the Falcons with JP Socino’s try, Stade dominated for a while and scored a few tries. I thought the first one was in touch from first view, Idu seemed to be way too far across but the replays showed that it was a good try. Then some weak tackling allowed the second try, and for the third Stade stretched our defence with great speed.

 

17-7 down after 25 minutes and things looked bleak.

 

But the Falcons’ heads didn’t go down and we looked hungry to attack still, led by Chris Harris and Simon Hammersley. I thought we’d score more, but we definitely needed to tighten up the defence. Just before half-time, Hammers cut a brilliant line through the Stade defence and it was 17-14, we’re back in the game!

 

Unfortunately before half-time Stade got a penalty try, which was all-but inevitable the way they were toying with our scrum.

 

It wasn’t pretty for much of the first half, but even at 24-14 an interesting second half was shaping up as Stade’s power took on our pace. Bobby Vickers and Chris York’s introduction after the break showed that the forward battle was a big concern for Dean Richards, but the first scrum of the second half still went backwards.

 

But after a couple of minutes the Falcons got it together and put together a bit of pressure, finally getting a close-range try from Mark Wilson. Rory Clegg’s difficult conversion reduced the deficit back to three points as the Stade Jean Bouin rocked to the sound of singing Geordies.

 

What the Falcons were giving away in forward strength they made up for in heart throughout the whole team, and were intent on throwing everything at Stade. Andy Saull and Davit Kubriashvili (“Easy for you to say,” said Mark Lawrenson) had a bit of fisticuffs and the next penalty Jonathan Ross was sent to the bin. Rory Clegg hit the penalty and with a quarter of the game left, we were 24-24 and a man up. Come on!

 

Noah Cato and Saull led another attack down the flanks but a loose ball was knocked on. The commentator said that it was a time for “slow hearts and cool heads” among the Falcons – I can tell you my heart wasn’t going slow, I was getting quite animated on the sofa!

 

Vickers’ yellow card for collapsing the resulting scrum was a kick in the teeth, and as Stade’s seconds with fourteen men ticked down they added injury to injury with a fifth try. Predictably, it came through the forwards as we had no answer to a maul that didn’t roll as much as steamroll.

 

The Falcons appeared to be a bit demoralised with that. We had played with so much heart and though we really had no answer to Stade’s forward power, the team definitely deserved to come away with at least a bonus point.

 

It looked like Stade were going to pick and drive until the clock hit zero, but with five seconds left we got a scrum, and then attacked for another few minutes. There was plenty of tension over here in the Village of the Damned as we drove forward, but Stade got a penalty to end the game.

 

There were some big performances from the Falcons, particularly from the forwards away from the scrum. George McGuigan and Mark Wilson were everywhere and made a truckload of tackles. In the backs, Simon Hammersley again showed the natural flair that has already made him a favourite among Falcons fans. The lads really can be proud of themselves tonight!

 

As Dave Walder said afterwards, we put in a much better show tonight than the last time we were in Paris, and we were actually confident of winning. What a difference to a year ago when a demoralised side were demolished by Harlequins and then laboured to two less-than-convincing wins over Calvisano. Of course a defeat is never anything to celebrate, but it’s happened and there were a huge load of positives for us.

 

So the group now looks like this ahead of Newport Gwent Dragons v Bucharest Wolves tomorrow night: Falcons 15 points, Dragons 11, Stade 10, Bucharest 1. Presuming Newport get five points at Rodney Parade tomorrow, they will be a point ahead of us, but since we meet the Dragons at KP next month and then go to Bucharest, we still have qualification in our own hands. I am confident we will be at least one of the best runners-up.

 

Right, pretty knackered now. Goodnight!

 

 

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

Match preview: Stade Francais v Newcastle Falcons

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Thursday 11 December 2014 – 8.45pm (7.45pm UK time)

Stade Jean Bouin, Paris

European Challenge Cup Pool 3 #4

 

It’s the second half of our double-header with Stade tomorrow night, the Falcons travelling to gay Paris with the aim of defending a 100% record in Pool 3 of the Challenge Cup and put one foot in the quarter-finals.

 

I was feeling extremely confident when I saw on the Sky Sports listings that they were showing Grenoble v Stade last night, but it turned out that they had the date wrong and that game is next week. Never mind.

 

After our 30-23 win against the Frenchmen at KP on Friday night, we have 14 points in the pool, three more than Newport Gwent Dragons who won 10-37 in Bucharest Wolves and have the return of that tie in Rodney Parade on Friday. Stade are third with just five points from their three games, and Bucharest have just the one.

 

Looking around the other pools at the halfway stage, the Dragons are among the leading second-placed teams at the moment, and a win tomorrow night should give us a great chance of at least progressing as one of the best runners-up.

 

Not much I can say about Stade that I didn’t last week, so I thought I’d compare their home record against English clubs in Europe to ours away to French sides.

 

Stade at home v English clubs (Heineken Cup unless stated):

1997/98 London Irish L28-29 (Challenge Cup)

1997/98 Gloucester W53-22 (Challenge Cup QF)

1999/2000 Leicester W38-16

2000/01 Wasps W40-10

2000/01 Leicester L30-34 (Final)

2001/02 Wasps W31-0

2002/03 Harlequins W29-12 (Challenge Cup R2L2)

2002/03 Wasps L12-27 (Challenge Cup QFL2)

2003/04 Leicester W26-15

2004/05 Gloucester W39-31

2004/05 Newcastle W48-8 (QF)

2005/06 Leicester W12-6

2006/07 Sale W27-16

2007/08 Harlequins W37-17

2007/08 Bristol W19-11

2008/09 Harlequins L10-15

2009/10 Bath W15-13

2010/11 Leeds W39-10 (Challenge Cup)

2011/12 Worcester W33-10 (Challenge Cup)

2011/12 Exeter W22-17 (Challenge Cup QF)

2012/13 London Welsh W39-17 (Challenge Cup)

2013/14 London Irish W32-14 (Challenge Cup)

2013/14 Harlequins L6-29 (Challenge Cup QF)

 

That’s a formidable record of eighteen wins and just five defeats. What’s more, it’s just four defeats at the Stade Jean Bouin against English clubs (the 2001 final was played at the Parc des Princes), and only Harlequins winning at Stade’s spiritual home over the past decade.

 

I was surprised to see that the Falcons’ record over the Channel isn’t really that great (Challenge Cup or equivalent unless stated):

1997/98 Perpignan W27-13

1997/98 Biarritz L28-32

1997/98 Agen L9-12 (SF)

1999/2000 Narbonne W20-19

1999/2000 Stade Aurillacois L10-17

1999/2000 Pau L20-36 (QF)

2000/01 Begles-Bordeaux W26-18

2001/02 Toulouse L13-33 (Heineken Cup)

2002/03 Grenoble W19-12 (R1L1)

2003/04 Montferrand L13-25 (R2L2)

2004/05 Perpignan L12-33 (Heineken Cup)

2004/05 Stade Francais L8-48 (Heineken Cup QF)

2005/06 Brive W24-27

2006/07 Brive L12-41

2006/07 Montauban L10-16

2006/07 Clermont Auvergne L19-24 (QF)

2007/08 Brive W19-12

2008/09 Brive L22-36

2009/10 Montauban L19-24

2009/10 Albi W16-14

2010/11 Montpellier L8-32

2010/11 Bourgoin – Not played

2011/12 Toulon L10-36

2011/12 Lyon L13-21

2012/13 Brive L16-23

 

I make that seven wins from 24 games in Frenchland, and only one in the last five years. So that’s a bit of a record we need to improve tomorrow night.

 

 

Starts for Juan Pablo Socino, Rory Clegg, Ruki Tipuna, Calum Green and Alex Rogers are among seven changes to the team that won the first leg at KP last week, while Mark Wilson’s rest is over. Chris Harris switches to the wing.

 

Falcons team: 15 Simon Hammersley 14 Chris Harris 13 Adam Powell (c) 12 Juan Pablo Socino 11 Noah Cato 10 Rory Clegg 9 Ruki Tipuna 1 Eric Fry 2 George McGuigan 3 Alex Rogers 4 Calum Green 5 Kane Thompson 6 Sean Robinson 7 Andy Saull 8 Mark Wilson.

 

Replacements 16 Rob Hawkins 17 Rob Vickers 18 Mark Irving 19 Dom Barrow 20 Chris York 21 Andy Davies 22 Tom Catterick 23 Tom Penny.

 

 

Stade team: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Krisnan Inu, 11 Djibril Camara, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jerome Fillol, 1 Zak Taulafo, 2 Remi Bonfils, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 4 Hugh Pyle, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 6 Jonathan Ross, 7 Pierre Rabadan (c), 8 Raphael Lakafia.

 

Replacements: 16 Zurabi Zhvania, 17 Romain Frou, 18 Sofiane Chellat, 19 Paul Gabrillagues, 20 Matthieu Ugena, 21 Julien Tomas, 22 Vincent Mallet, 23 Jonathan Danty.

 

 

If you’re going over to Paris, have a great time, I wish I could be there with you! Hopefully you’ll get to have a singsong under the Big Metal Thingy.

 

For those back home in Blighty, don’t forget to tune in to Sky Sports 1 for the game. If you don’t have Sky, nip to the supermarket and buy a box of Carling that has a free 24-hour Now TV code on – that’s how the game will be viewed in the Village, and I definitely can’t wait for tomorrow night!!

 

 

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

Match reaction (of sorts): Newcastle Falcons 30-23 Stade Francais

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“So what have they won?” asked my new friend Steve in his thick Teesside accent as the barman approached us.

 

“A game!” I replied. “But when you’re at the bottom of the league you celebrate everything you can! Now do you want Peroni or San Miguel?”

 

 

Friday 5 December 2014 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

European Challenge Cup Pool 3 #3

 

Over the years I might have mentioned (“Just once or twice!”) that I really wanted the Falcons to have another go at Stade Francais so we could hopefully give them a walloping, like they did to us in 2005. Bit of a character flaw really, but I’m working on it.

 

The combination of Mrs L’s work Christmas party and using my only half-day holiday in the new job to go to the recent Gloucester game meant that I missed what the Germans would call Die Revanche.

 

A poor wifi signal led to me not seeing any scores during dinner at a posh hotel in Universitytown Lancaster, but after Christmas pudding the boyfriend of one of wor lass’s colleagues managed to get Twitter working.

 

16-14 it was (I think), ten minutes into the second half. Then 22-23, oh no it’s actually 25-23!! “Cato gets the bonus point try!” but it wasn’t converted :-S. Three minutes to go…

 

I nipped to the bathroom and when I got back, Pete the farmer solemnly said the game had finished 30-31. Dang! When he showed me his phone however, I saw 30-23 and cheered, whacking my head off the wall behind!

 

Right lads, drinks? Fortunately the ladies were on wine by the (shared) bottle, so the round was only four pints, lucky in a posh place.

 

As I quoted above, one of the lads on our table asked what the Falcons had won as we waited at the bar. We won a game – it doesn’t happen very often so it’s worth celebrating!!

 

This is one of the (many) reasons I love following the Falcons – even when you don’t see or even listen to the game, a little story can still develop around it.

 

The wifi was still not great this morning so I haven’t seen any match reports yet, and I’m just posting this up quickly before heading to Kirkby Lonsdale v Carlisle this afternoon. So I don’t really know much about what happened at KP last night bar the result.

 

Texts said it was a good game though, and it looked tense and topsy-turvy on Twitter. What a great result too, Stade may be something of a fallen giant but they are still a massive club, third in their league, and they had a very good side out.

 

I wish I’d been there, though ironically I’d probably feel rougher than I do now after the party last night.

 

Good times. Well done the Mighty Falcons!!

 

 

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Stade Francais

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Friday 5 December 2014 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

European Challenge Cup Pool 3 #3

 

It’s the game we’ve waited almost ten years for. The Rematch v Stade Francais. Crazy-shirted Stade may be a shadow of the team that took us apart at the Parc des Princes back in 2005 and went on to contest the Heineken Cup Final that year, but I’d really, really love us to give them a pounding tomorrow night.

 

Enough of that for now though. We might never get a chance, as Stade have had a poor (by their old lofty standards) start to the Challenge Cup campaign, losing 22-38 at home to Newport Gwent Dragons before a narrow 9-13 win in Bucharest. Some stars like Sergio Parisse and Pascal Pape have been left out of their European squad but Southern Hemisphere internationals Digby Ioane, David Lyons and Morne Steyn as well as France scrum-half Julien Dupuy are registered.

 

Focusing on the Top 14 seems to be working so far for Stade with 35 points and eight wins from their opening twelve matches putting the Parisians in third place.

 

Stade began the season with a tight win at Castres and also won 24-28 in Toulon in September thanks to tries from Alexandre Flanquart and Julien Arias in the first half, and fifteen points from the boot of Jules Plisson after the break. Those results contrast with a 51-9 hammering away to Clermont Auvergne in November.

 

On Sunday, the thirteen-times French champions beat Brive 20-17 at the Stade Jean-Bouin to consolidate their play-off spot.

 

Last season’s European campaign for Gonzalo Quesada’s side ended in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals with a 6-29 loss at home to Harlequins. They were finalists in 2013 but lost to Leinster heavily at the RDS.

 

This is Stade’s fifth consecutive Challenge Cup campaign, something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago when our two sides last met. 3,000 Falcons fans flocked to the French capital by plane, train, boat and bus hopeful for probably the most famous win in our history. We sang, we shouted, we waved a truckload of flags, but unfortunately it was not to be.

 

Stade controlled the game from almost the word go, Alain Rolland and Rob Andrew getting their wires crossed on interpretation of the rolling maul and the home side ran amock. Full-back Oliver Sarramea scored three of Stade’s seven tries, while a try and penalty from Matthew Burke was all the white-clad Falcons could muster. Epi Taione’s late card just added insult to injury.

 

At the end of the day, nobody was really depressed about losing to a side featuring the likes of Stephane Glas, Brian Liebenberg, David Skrela, Agustin Pichot and Mauro Bergamasco, while the Falcons were missing Jonny Wilkinson and Colin Charvis through injury. We had a big long night out in Paris, and were grateful to the team for giving us an excuse for being there.

 

The Falcons team that day, none of whom are at KP any longer: Burke, May, Noon (c), Mayerhofler, Stephenson (M Tait), Walder (Flood), Charlton (Grindal), Isaacson (Wilson), Long, Ward (Thompson), Parling (Gross), Grimes, McCarthy (Taione), Harris, Dowson.

 

 

For tomorrow night, Dean Richards has again employed a number of youngsters to up the EQP quota (19 of our 23 are English-qualified) and give academy and fringe players outings, though we are kind-of forced to do that anyway with a number of experienced non-English players not registered. Tom Catterick’s game at fly-half will be interesting, and Kieran Brookes returns from England duty. Kane Thompson makes a long-awaited first start in a black shirt.

 

Falcons team: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 AlexTait, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Noah Cato, 10 Tom Catterick, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Eric Fry, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Kane Thompson, 5 Scott Macleod, 6 Sean Robinson, 7 Dan Temm, 8 Chris York.

Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Ben Morris, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 Tom Penny.

 

 

Of the Stade Francais 23 named for tomorrow night, only two were in the squad that we met in 2005 – captain Pierre Rabadan was on the bench at the Parc des Princes, as was Jerome Fillol who will again be a replacement this week.

 

Stade team: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Jérémy Sinzelle, 13 Herman Meyer Bosman, 12 Krisnan Inu, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Julien Tomas, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta, 2 Aled De Malmanche, 3 Davit Kubriashvili, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 6 Nicolas Garrault, 7 Pierre Rabadan (c), 8 Jonathan Ross.

 

Replacements: 16 Zurabi Zhvania, 17 Romain Frou, 18 Adrien Oleon, 19 Julien Nibert, 20 Matthieu Ugena, 21 Jerome Fillol, 22 Vincent Mallet, 23 Benjamin Dumas.

 

 

It’s time to put the record straight, come on Falcons!

 

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 13-18 Sale Sharks

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Sunday 30 November 2014 – 3.15pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #9

 

I had expected to have an afternoon in front of the fire and a few cans today, while watching the game on BT, but about 24 hours before kick-off Mrs Leipy decided I should drive over and watch it live. I didn’t put up too much resistance, not least because the second half of Kendal v Kirkby Lonsdale was about to kick-off so I wasn’t up for a long debate.

 

After I braved the winter sun and wet roads in The Village of the Damned, the M6 was quite quiet, I even got into the left lane on occasion! The A69 was a bit busier, and I missed the turn-off into Westerhope, but still managed to walk the dog (a real live dog, not ‘drink a Brown Ale’) before lunch and kick-off.

 

The Falcons were dealt a blow before kick-off with Oliver Tomaszczyk failing a fitness test, so Scott Wilson started. That was not a disaster in itself, but it meant we had two on-loan (Alex Rogers is practically a Falcons player though, he’s on the bench every week) among the replacements. Kane Thompson and Josh Furno created slightly more interest among supporters.

 

Today’s crowd was never going to match that for the heavily-marketed game against Gloucester, but boosted by a load of youngsters playing for their clubs (including the mighty Kendal!), five and a half thousand is a decent turnout considering the game was on the tellybox. The atmosphere was canny too, particularly in the second half.

 

The Falcons did well early doors, getting a try through a bit of solo magic from Juan Pablo Socino, but after we went 10-5 up Sale really took over I thought and we struggled to get the early tempo back. Our best chance looked to be the two winger Sinoti Sinoti and Alesana Tuilagi, both of whom looked threatening in attack, but they weren’t backed up by the rest of the team breaking the gain line too and it was interesting that in our next dominant period late in the game, we barely made it into Sale’s 22.

 

Danny Cipriani had Sale ticking with some lively passing and intelligent kicks that kept the Falcons under pressure, but again I didn’t think Sale created many try-scoring chances other than their first crossing. Johnny Leota’s try came from a mis-pass by the Falcons and a break led by Cipriani – not making excuses, just saying that our defence was really strong and performed well.

 

The lineout, less so. I’m not sure what went on but we lost at least three to the tail (including a later one on our own five-metre line), and others didn’t seem to go quite into the jumpers’ arms. The scrum was hit-and-miss, strong early on but Sale seemed to get the better of our pack in the set-piece after the first half-hour.

 

Simon Hammersley looked to inject a bit of pace and creativity in the second half but wasn’t able to find a way through Sale’s high-up defence. Another replacement I thought had a canny day was Adam Powell, who replaced Gonzalo Tiesi in the first half. I didn’t notice the aforementioned Furno and Thompson unfortunately, others may have an opinion on them.

 

It seems we are struggling against opposition who get in our faces and deny space to the backs, this happened against Bath and also later on against Gloucester last week. I’m not sure what the answer to that is, as we don’t really have many fast players missing from the pack and half-backs, apart from perhaps Ruki Tipuna but I thought both Mike Blair and later Warren Fury were OK today.

 

Above all, we need to keep working towards playing for eighty minutes. That will come, once it comes it probably won’t be every week, but we should give at least one team (other than London Welsh) a bit of a pounding this season I hope, if we can get everything together.

 

Things are still looking up – for me, a top eight position would be a success this season and a top ten place adequate. We’re not going to win every week, and Sale are a competent side. We still look for more competitive than a year ago.

 

Now it’s time for the belated re-match against Stade Francais and the return to Paris. A couple of weeks to work on things before going to Harlequins for a game that, on recent evidence, looks winnable.

 

 

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

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Sunday 30 November 2014 – 3.15pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #9

After our victory over Gloucester a week ago, the Falcons are looking to make it three Premiership home wins in a row and four in five league games on Sunday against Sale. It’s a winnable game, but Sale showed their quality last week by beating Harlequins in south London, so it certainly won’t be easy.

Despite an inconsistent start to the season, Sale have had two impressive wins in the last couple of weeks, firstly hammering London Irish 36-8 in Salford before that win at the Stoop. Dan Braid was the Sharks’ hero against Quins with the winning try, while Danny Cipriani kicked eleven points to give the Mancs a 12-16 win.

It was Steve Diamond’s side’s first away win of the season, having previously been downed at Gloucester, Saracens and Northampton in the league and Clermont Auvergne and Leicester in cup combat.

Home form has been better, with only Bath leaving the AJ Bell Stadium with a league win so far this season, and Sale sit a respectable seventh in the table with twenty points, behind Wasps on points difference.

One Shark who has caught the eye recently has been Josh Beaumont, son of England legend Bill and a former Falcons academy man who left us in 2012 without playing a first team game. A lock of a number eight, Beaumont has started the last four games for Sale and will be one to watch on Sunday. He is joined by two other former Newcastle youngsters in winger Charlie Ingall and prop Darren Fearn, the latter moving north from Bedford in the summer.

Steve Diamond’s star signings of this year’s close season were Scottish internationals Chris Cusiter, who replaced Bristol-bound fellow Lion Dwayne Peel, and Nathan Hines.

Now in his third season in the North West after a spell in Australia, the revitalised Danny Cipriani appears to be finally knuckling down and letting his rugby do the talking for him, so much so that he returned to the England side in New Zealand in the summer, and some consider him unlucky to have missed out on the autumn friendlies.

A cursory glance at Sale’s squad shows few star names, but the appearance stats tell a story of a squad that has been built through evolution rather than revolution, contrary to Diamond’s reputation for impulse. Will Cliff, Nick Macleod, David Seymour and Marc Jones are all centurions, as are Magnus Lund and Eifion ‘the big fella’ Lewis-Roberts, both now in their second spell at Sale. Tom Brady, on 96, will likely hit one hundred before the season is out, but Mark Cueto leads the way with 255 appearances and almost a hundred tries – including a record 75 in the Premiership.

Six-cap All Black Dan Braid provides not only leadership from the back row, but with his abrasive style of play alongside the evergreen Seymour, the battle of the loose forwards will be key on Sunday.

Time was that Sale had gone almost two decades without winning a game at KP, but the days when we could almost take a home win against them for granted are long gone.

Two victories in Gary Gold’s era as gaffer were our only wins in six at home to the Sharks, and last year’s 8-16 loss in January sounded pretty dire on the radio. But the 22-19 win in the 2012 relegation battle was an absolute epic.

Rob Miller inspired the Sharks to a 12-19 half-time lead, scoring one of the their tries, and in the early stages of the second half the visitors remained in control. However, with half an hour to go, Gold threw on James Hudson and loan signing Adam Balding as the Falcons prepared to take a lineout in front of the South Stand. From the lineout, Tim Swinson was driven over for a try that sent KP wild.

Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion leveled the scores before the Kiwi added a late penalty, securing four priceless points from a second half that had seen a massive show of defiance from Falcons players and fans. It was surely one of the best atmospheres ever at Kingston Park.

Another game of note was in September 2007. Toby Flood had been left out of the England squad for the World Cup but just two days before the Premiership season-opener, Jamie Noon had been injured in England’s trouncing by South Africa, a game that will perhaps be remembered only for the identity of England’s fly-half: Andy Farrell. Rumour has it that as soon as he heard of the severity of Noon’s injury, our then-manager John Fletcher switched his phone off until after the Sale game.

Flood duly played a blinder in our bonus-point win and the next anyone saw of him was with Brian Ashton’s England squad in France.

Sale at KP:
22/09/1990 Division 2 W7-6
26/09/1992 Division 2 W7-3
03/12/1994 Club Match W40-7
10/03/1998 Premiership 1 W23-18
20/12/1998 Premiership 1 W30-15
29/12/1999 Premiership 1 W12-6
06/01/2001 Cup SF W37-25
11/03/2001 Premiership W48-24
31/03/2002 Premiership W30-10
27/10/2002 Premiership W31-20
21/09/2003 Premiership W9-8
02/01/2005 Premiership W30-29
02/10/2005 Cup W34-9
16/04/2006 Premiership W32-21
26/12/2006 Premiership W40-25
16/09/2007 Premiership W33-12
07/09/2008 Premiership L9-14
13/09/2009 Premiership D16-16
07/01/2011 Premiership D19-19
29/01/2012 Cup W37-7
30/03/2012 Premiership W22-19
03/01/2014 Premiership L8-16

 
Scott Lawson’s injury means that George McGuigan starts and with no hooker on the bench, either he or Rob Vickers will presumably have to play the full eighty minutes. The rest of the starting XV that beat Gloucester get their reward of a go at Sale. Kane Thompson could make his long-awaited Falcons debut from the bench, while Josh Furno and Eric Fry are back among the replacements too.

Falcons team: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Sinoti Sinoti, 13 Gonzalo Tiesi, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Rob Vickers, 2 George McGuigan, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg (c).

Replacements: 16 Alex Rogers, 17 Eric Fry, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Josh Furno, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Adam Powell, 23 Simon Hammersley.

 
Sale welcome back a number of internationals on Sunday, and have a big Antipodean centre partnership in Jonny Leota and Sam Tuitupou who will surely test Gonzalo Tiesi and Juan Pablo Socino. Josh Beaumont starts in the pack.
Sale team: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Luke McLean, 13 Jonny Leota, 12 Sammy Tuitupou, 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Chris Cusiter, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 2 Marc Jones, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 4 Jonathan Mills, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 6 Dan Braid (c), 7 Magnus Lund, 8 Josh Beaumont.

Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Alberto de Marchi, 18 Ross Harrison, 19 Mark Easter, 20 Viliami Fihaki, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Nick Macleod, 23 Mark Jennings.

 
There’s surely no reason we can’t get a third successive home league win on Sunday if we play to our potential, and this could be quite a good game. Can’t wait to watch it.

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 20-10 Gloucester Rugby

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Friday 21 November 2014 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #8

 

Brilliant, just brilliant. The game wasn’t perfect but what a fantastic result that was for the tenth-placed (yes, we are moving up slowly but surely!) Falcons!

 

It was, for the most part, an intelligent performance last night I would say. In the first half we recovered from an early cock-up that gave Gloucester a try after less than thirty seconds to dominate possession and territory in the opening forty. We battered on the door but Gloucester’s defence held us at the 22 and there were few try-scoring chances, but kicks allowed the Falcons to go into half-time 9-7 ahead.

 

In the second half, we tried for a while to replicate that dominance and got a reward with Sinoti Sinoti’s try, but eventually the players’ energy levels dropped, as happens with a team of our standard. But we didn’t try to force things, instead defending valiantly and putting Gloucester under big pressure at the breakdown to prevent quick ball as much as possible. In the end, it all worked and the Falcons got a fantastic victory to move up to tenth in the Premiership ahead of London Irish’s hosting of Bath this afternoon.

 

I think we really needed that victory last night. With all due respect to these teams, two of our four victories last month had been over London Welsh and Bucharest, and after three defeats this month we needed a win to suggest that Northampton-Cardiff-Bath was the blip, not October.

 

This might not have been the best team Gloucester have ever brought to KP, but they were a competent side who gave it a good go in the second half so we should be well-pleased with four points. Now we move on to Sale, another difficult but very winnable game.

 

There were a few individuals who needed and had big games last night. Oliver Tomaszczyk has been very much our third choice number three this season but he kept his discipline and had a big game both in the scrum and the loose, playing a big part in our strong breakdowns. Alex Tuilagi looks far leaner than in the summer and made a lot of yards, which is presumably why we signed him, definitely his best game in a Falcons shirt so far.

 

Rory Clegg? Well, his ponderous kick led to Gloucester’s try and he was off-target early from the tee, but the little prince kept his head up and went on to have a really good night I thought. Good distribution, some incisive running, and match-winning kicks. Oh, and a big tackle on halfway on a rampaging Gloucester forward. Can’t really ask for more than that. Clegg looks a far more confident player now compared to last year and we can only hope that continues.

 

Juan Pablo Socino seemed to revel in the centre, making a lot of creative runs and setting up attacking platforms that the rest of the backs could feed off. I think we need to overlook this guy’s inconsistent goalkicking for a little while and realise that we have a real gem of a player there who is probably our most creative midfielder, once we really gel him into the team in one position I think JP will be a big star.

 

Finally, what a fantastic atmosphere there was last night. I decided to go for a bottle of coke at half-time rather than a beer due to the queues, but it was great to see the South Stand bar busy. For once, the Falcons actually put on a good show for a big crowd too, so hopefully we’ve put at least another few hundred on the attendance for Sale now.

 

I really think things are looking up now. Believe it or not, and of course we need to ignore games in hand, the Mighty Falcons are now not just twelve points off the bottom and thirteen points off top. A top ten finish is not out of the question. Top eight? We’ll know more next Sunday.

 

 

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