Friday 21 November 2014 – 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #8
The Falcons are entering a massive ten days… two extremely winnable home games. The first is against Gloucester tomorrow night, when Kingston Park is set to welcome its highest crowd since promotion last year.
Gloucester are eighth in the Premiership at the moment with three wins and sixteen points from their seven games. Their season began with a 53-6 pounding away to Northampton, while the Cherry ‘n’ Whites also struggled for a long time away to London Welsh in September before leaving Oxford with a comfortable-looking 10-46 win. Leicester were then sent packing from Kingsholm contemplating a 33-16 defeat in October.
However, Exeter won in Gloucester early in the season and last Friday night, Harlequins were victorious at Kingsholm for the first time this century, Conor O’Shea’s team winning 15-22 thanks to Nick Easter, Luke Wallace and Charlie Walker’s tries. David Humphreys’ hosts led 12-10 at half-time (and led 12-0 at one stage) but didn’t score a try all night.
In the cups, Gloucester are going well, with two wins in the Challenge Cup against Brive and Oyonnax and a victory at London Welsh in the LV= Cup, which followed a tight 28-27 loss at Exeter.
One player who should (I write before the teams are named) be of interest to Falcons fans tomorrow night is James Hudson, the only former KP man in the Gloucester squad. After a slow start to his Kingsholm career, Huddo has been a regular in the Cherry ‘n’ White engine room this season alongside veteran Tom Palmer, who joined from Wasps in the summer.
Palmer’s England career may be more than likely over at the age of 35, and two years since the last of his 42 caps, but Gloucester fans’ attention at Twickenham on Saturday will be focused on Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May and Ben Morgan, both try-scorers for England this autumn. Matt Kvesic will be looking to show that Steffon Armitage is not the only alternative to Chris Robshaw for the national number seven shirt, while James Hook is looking to get back into the Wales side. Charlie Sharples may need a beast of a run to make the World Cup as Chris Ashton and David Strettle show good form for Saracens but fail to make the England 23.
One reason why the Falcons should be confident ahead of tomorrow night, bar our rejuvenation this season and Gloucester’s erratic form, is that the south-westerners’ win at KP last season was their first up here since Christmas 2007.
A 13-8 half-time lead that day was squandered as we only managed a Phil Godman penalty after the break to go with two from Rory Clegg and the latter’s conversion of Tom Catterick’s early try, while Freddie Burns’ boot complemented scores by Rob Cook and the aforementioned May to give the visitors victory.
Further to our canny record against Gloucester at home in recent games, our wins over them around the turn of the decade were often crucial. Tom May’s late penalty in January 2009 (I still remember the incredible tension) set us set the Falcons up for a run of seven wins from eight league games. A year later, a 25-13 victory on a Wednesday night in March was only our second Premiership home win of the season but it was a key result in winning that year’s relegation battle.
December 2011’s meeting was Alan Tait’s last Premiership victory as Falcons gaffer, achieved with the help of a try by a player who had burst onto the scene with Gloucester, not least in the LV= Cup final between the two sides the previous season: Jordi Pasqualin. Our other try-scorer that night? The also-enigmatic James Fitzpatrick.
Incidentally, Scott Lawson scored one of Gloucester’s three tries in the last of his four seasons at Kingsholm.
Gloucester in Newcastle:
12/03/1977 North Road Cup QF W3-0
10/02/1990 Gateshead Cup R4 L15-26
28/11/1992 Kingston Park Cup R3 W13-10
18/09/1993 Kingston Park Division 1 D12-12
14/12/1997 Kingston Park Premiership 1W37-27
25/04/1999 Kingston Park Premiership 1W39-15
30/04/2000 Kingston Park Premiership 1W36-28
06/09/2000 Kingston Park Premiership L18-19
18/11/2001 Kingston Park Premiership W18-16
15/09/2002 Kingston Park Premiership L19-22
05/10/2003 Kingston Park Premiership W42-22
27/02/2005 Kingston Park Premiership D27-27
19/02/2006 Kingston Park Premiership L9-13
13/04/2007 Kingston Park Premiership W19-12
23/12/2007 Kingston Park Premiership L13-20
02/11/2008 Kingston Park Cup L10-11
11/01/2009 Kingston Park Premiership W10-7
31/03/2010 Kingston Park Premiership W25-13
21/11/2010 Kingston Park Premiership W12-6
02/12/2011 Kingston Park Premiership W26-25
29/09/2013 Kingston Park Premiership L16-22
The Falcons have made a large six changes to the team that went to Bath last week, with Adam Powell and Scott Wilson dropping to the bench with knocks and Rory Clegg starting, sending Juan Pablo Socino into the centre. Oliver Tomaszczyk, Scott Lawson, Mike Blair and Alex Tait come into the starting lineup while Ally Hogg captains at number eight.
Falcons: 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 Scott Lawson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Calum Green, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg (c).
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Alex Rogers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Robinson, 20 Chris York, 21 Ruki Tipuna, 22 Adam Powell, 23 Simon Hammersley.
Gloucester’s experienced second row partnership of Tom Palmer and James Hudson stands out in the visiting side, along with full-back Steve McColl, formerly of Leeds/Yorkshire and rumoured to have interested Dean Richards during our season in the Championship, who makes his Premiership start. Tighthead prop John Afoa is reported to be the league’s highest-paid player.
Gloucester: 15 Steve McColl, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Meakes, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Dan Robson, 1 Yann Thomas, 2 Darren Dawidiuk, 3 John Afoa, 4 Tom Palmer, 5 James Hudson, 6 Tom Savage, 7 Matt Kvesic (c), 8 Ross Moriarty.
Replacements: 16 Luke Cole, 17 James Gibbons, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Tom Isaacs.
Don’t forget to Bring The Noise tomorrow night – come on Falcons!!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)