Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 37-7 Sale Sharks

Sunday 29 January 2012 – 3.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

LV= Cup Group 3 #3

The Golden era at KP has got off to a great start with today’s walloping of Sale in the LV= Cup.

Well, perhaps it didn’t get off to a good start initially as the first 10 or 15 minutes today were pretty awful. But somehow the lads galvanised themselves and ran out 37-7 winners with a bonus point!

With Llanelli (Scarlets) five points ahead of us at the top of Group 3 and Harlequins and Gloucester in second and third respectively, coupled with the fact that our final group match is at Leicester, qualification for the semi-finals seems highly unlikely.

But that’s ok. These games are, as has been said many times in recent weeks, all about building for the rest of the Premiership season.

Have to say though, a few weeks ago I wasn’t that bothered about this Leicester cup game, but got a ticket anyway. I’m quite looking forward to it now.

Today, especially the second half in which we hardly gave Sale a sniff, has really put me in a good mood and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Obviously it wasn’t perfect. You could say we should have scored more in the second half given our dominance. But a win is a win and a bonus point win is a rare treasure for us.

Joel Hodgson has impressed me at fly-half over the last two home games, indeed we started to pick up today after he went on a mazy run on halfway, in contrast to the wasteful kicking earlier in the game.

Although Mark Wilson had a good game, I’d have given man of the match to Adriaan Fondse, who had by a mile his best game for us so far. Dominant in the lineout and did his bit around the park well.

It is great to see Jon Golding back too. Grant Shiells has had a superb season but I feel Golding gives us a bit extra aggression and power. He and Euan Murray could set us a good platform for the rest of the season, especially if Matt Thompson gets back as well.

It’ll be interesting to see who starts at loosehead at Welford Road with Shiells away with Scotland A. I suspect Ashley Wells will get the nod as Jonny G is eased back in, perhaps getting the second 40.

On another note, the (official) crowd of 4,000-odd was quite a few more than I for one had expected. I guess the pre-match kids rugby festival beefed the numbers up a bit.

The drum installed in the South Stand is a decent idea, and people used it well today. The steward supervisor seemed a bit miffed before the game though!

So, a good win and for the most part a good performance. Too bad it wasn’t in the league – we could really use five Premiership points right now!

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

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Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Sale Sharks

Sunday 29 January 2012 – 3.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

LV= Cup Group 3 #3

 

Gary Gold takes charge of the Falcons for the first time this weekend as we meet Sale in a kind-of local derby (in the sense that we are both north of Nottingham).

 

This is likely to be our penultimate LV= Cup match of the season with Scarlets and Harlequins heading Group 3 with 10 and nine points respectively, ahead of Gloucester and ourselves with five each. Both Scarlets and Quins will be looking for home wins this weekend to cement their places at the top of the group.

 

After this Sunday our last group game is at Leicester a week tomorrow, not the easiest even with the Tiggers’ lack of interest in this cup over the last year or two.

 

Of course though there are more important matters for us this season than getting back to the LV= Cup Final that we lost so badly in 2011, namely surviving in the Premiership, and the coming two games allow Gary Gold a chance to build towards the return to league action.

 

Sale have recently seen Andrew Sheridan sign for Toulon from next season, though he rarely plays anyway these days due to injury so might not be so much of a miss.

 

They do have a number of other internationals though such as England’s Hendre Fourie, who turned down a move to Kingston Park to join Sale last summer, allegedly because Manchester is closer to Rotherham than Newcastle. Shame we didn’t let Kevin Keegan at him.

 

Mark Cueto is perhaps their star player now Charlie Hodgson has left, and Andy Powell is never far from controversy in the back row. Powell will be hoping for a big role in the Six Nations for Wales, though countryman Dwayne Peel has been left out of Warren Gatland’s squad. Former Gloucester prop Alasdair Dickinson, number 8 Richie Vernon and young lock Fraser McKenzie are all in the Scotland squad.

 

Last season’s skipper David Gaskell has been named England Saxons captain for their game against Ireland Wolfhounds in Exeter tomorrow, and his fellow Shark back-rower Kearnan Myall is on the bench.

 

Former Falcons Rob Miller and Charlie Amesbury are also in Tony Hanks’ squad. Miller has come into his own this season at full-back, playing well against us at Edgeley Park on Boxing Day.

 

If you want a more tenuous link to the Falcons, captain Sam Tuitupou, formerly of Worcester, is good friends with Tane Tu’ipulotu who of course scored our winning try in the semi-final of this tournament 10 months ago.

 

Sale are our oldest opponents of those clubs currently in the Premiership, Gosforth having played them for the first time back in 1951. We also have a long history in the cups, with quite a good record:

 

29/09/1973 North Road                RFU Cup Preliminary            W18-6

03/04/1976 Heywood Road          John Player Cup SF               W12-3

06/01/2001 Kingston Park            Tetley’s Bitter Cup SF           W37-25

17/04/2004 Twickenham              Powergen Cup Final             W37-33

02/10/2005 Kingston Park            Powergen Cup                       W34-9

29/09/2006 Edgeley Park             EDF Energy Cup                    L5-28

 

 

That last meeting in September 2006 was a bit of a shocker. Many didn’t notice and few cared about Matt Thompson’s last-minute try. Mind, some revenge was perhaps what Sale deserved after our quite incredible Twickenham win in 2004, one of the great days in our club’s history.

 

It took a long time for Sale to win a competitive game in the North East, but after their first KP victory in September 2008, their last two visits have ended in draws, most recently a year ago when a controversial try by Sisa Koyamaibole looked to have given the Sharks a win in front of the ESPN cameras, until Tim Swinson crossed with three minutes left to secure a 19-19 draw, aided by Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion.

 

Gopperth starts a second successive match at full-back, but the big news for us is the return on the bench of Jon Golding. And the fact that all of our players are playing in position, pretty much. Richard Boyle could make his debut from the bench:

 

15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Corne Uys, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Suka Hufanga, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 James Hall, 4 Tim Swinson, 5 Adriaan Fondse, 6 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch, 8 Mark Wilson.

Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Ashley Wells, 19 Richard Boyle, 20 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 21 Richard Mayhew, 22 Will Chudley, 23 Tom Bedford.

 

Amesbury and Miller start for Sale alongside NFL legend and husband of Gisele Bundchen Tom Brady (’s namesake), and Fourie, who as I’ve said could’ve been wearing black this Sunday. He probably doesn’t picking Sale over us.

 

15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Nick MacLeod, 11 Charlie Amesbury, 10 Rob Miller, 9 Dwayne Peel (c), 1 Lee Imiolek, 2 Joe Ward, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 4 Andrei Ostrikov, 5 Wame Lewaravu, 6 Onasa’I Auva’a, 7 Hendre Fourie, 8 Mark Easter.

Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Tony Buckley, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 David Seymour, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 Mark Jennings, 23 Luther Burrell.

 

 

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

Match reaction: Lyon 21-13 Newcastle Falcons

Saturday 21 January 2012 – 3.00pm

Matmut Stadium, Lyon

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 #6

So our Falcons’ adventures in Europe are over for another season with this defeat in France.

It was always a long shot to go through this afternoon since we were relying on Petrarca Padova scoring an unlikely win over Toulon – and Toulon really stuck the boot into the champions of the boot-shaped country.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it over the Channel for the game and since BBC Newcastle don’t want the large audiences they get for the Falcons’ European away commentaries, I was roped into clothes shopping in Knightsbridge with wor lass.

Standing outside United Colours of Benetton at 2.30pm I remembered the game was on, and Twitter showed it was 7-7 with Redford Pennycook having scored.

Come half-time it was 7-10 and eventually 7-13.

However, while waiting for the lady to get us some McFlurries (I do like a Crunchie McFlurry) I realised it was 3.45pm. Did we see out the continental campaign with a win.

Newcastle United were winning 1-0 at Fulham, for the very little I cared about that. But a penalty try and then another had seen the Falcons beaten 21-13.

I see Ally Hogg spent some time in the bin. The Driving Scotsman must be somewhere near Ben Woods’ total of yellow cards for us by now.

Paul Moriarty will no doubt be annoyed that he has lost his 100% record as caretaker gaffer, but these few weeks are all about gelling a team together and trying to get some form and momentum before Bath in February.

Annoyingly I’ll be missing that trip too for the first time in 10 years. Not that that will make any difference to how we perform.

So back to today, the result wasn’t massively important but a defeat is never a good result and Gary Gold certainly has work to do.

The shopping expedition ended down in Clapham with a quick pint in a pub called The Falcon, not a bad place at all and obviously one we had to try.

Can’t believe I’ve never noticed it before, but then back when I used to visit an old friend in the area I turned right out of Clapham Junction, not left. Britain’s busiest railway station don’t you know.

So now it’s back to the LV= Cup, though it’ll be hard to qualify for what would inevitably another glorious semi-final, despite Tulip having left us.

See you at KP next Sunday!

Lyon tries: Ratuvou, Penalty, Tranier. Conversions: Thomas, Loursac 2.

Newcastle tries: Pennycook. Conversion: Gopperth. Penalties: Gopperth 2.

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

Match preview: Lyon v Newcastle Falcons

Saturday 21st January 2012 – 3.00pm (French time)

Matmut Stadium, Lyon

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 #6

The Falcons make a first visit to the Matmut Stadium to conclude this season’s adventures in the Amlin Challenge Cup pool stages. No, not Turkey, but Lyon, in Rhône-Alpes province of France.

Paul Moriarty will still be in charge despite Gary Gold arriving in the North East this week, and this game sees us still in with a chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals, but since we need to get three points more than Toulon do in Padova, it is unlikely we’ll reach the out eight.

Toulon have just chucked Joe Van Niekerk into their squad to replace Leonardo Senatore – different world to the one we spend our cash in.

Fitzy is optimistic though.

Lyon have no chance of qualifying, having only won two matches so far in the tournament so far, home and away to Petrarca.

They are also bottom of the Top 14 table with only three wins from their 14 games so far, though only three points behind Biarritz and Bayonne and four below Brive with a game in hand on those sides.

Lyon’s previous home game was a 6-6 draw with Clermont Auvergne at the end of December, and then they lost 51-10 at Toulouse on their first outing of 2012.

On Sunday evening they were beaten 29-10 at Toulon last weekend.

Lyon have a number of recognisable names in their squad. There are former Sale players Lee Thomas and Sisa Koyamaibole, a Fiji and Pacific Islands international. Mark Van GIsbergen and James Bailey also have Premiership experience with Wasps and Gloucester respectively, while Argentinian number 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón’s time at London Irish was probably most famous to fans of other clubs for this blooper.

Geordie interest is provided by former Northampton lock Christian Short, but Lyon’s highest-profile star is perhaps South African scrum-half Ricky Januarie, who has 47 caps for the Springboks.

Although this is the Falcons’ first trip to Lyon it is not our first visit to Rhône-Alpes. That came in October 2002, in a 12-19 win at Grenoble’s Stade Lesdiguieres in the first round first leg of this tournament. Jonny Wilkinson kicked four penalties that day, as well as converting Marius Hurter’s try, and we finished the job a week later when a Michael Stephenson hat-trick secured us a 52-29 aggregate victory.

Some people (like myself) would say things were better in the three seasons when the Challenge Cup was knock-out all the way, although I suppose the bean-counters prefer three guaranteed home games rather than two.

The Falcons have named an intriguing lineup for the game tomorrow, with Jimmy Gopperth at full-back and Jordi Pasqualin on the wing due to mounting injuries in the backs, Tom Catterick being the latest to drop along with Jeremy Manning and Luke Fielden, who went off against Padova. There are three hookers, including potential debutant George McGuigan, and three props on the bench alongside just one back, Will Chudley:

Starting XV: Gopperth ©, Pasqualin, Eves, Fitzpatrick, Shortland, Hodgson, Pilgrim, Wells, M Mayhew, Hall, Hogg, Swinson, R Mayhew, Pennycook, Wilson.

Replacements: Graham, Fearn, Murray, Vickers, Welch, McGuigan, Shiells, Chudley.

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 43-0 Petrarca Padova

Sunday 15 January 2012, 3.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 #5

Right now I am grateful for two things: 1) I’m sober and 2) the Falcons won.

I am trying to get to London from Newcastle and the trains from the Central don’t know if they are coming or going (pardon the pun). It’s mad down there.

Anyway, I’m on me way now, just about.

That distracts from what was going to be my opening – Paul Moriarty is probably going to forever have 100% record as Falcons [caretaker] manager after our win over Petrarca Padova this afternoon.

Our boys made hard work of the Italian champions, leading only 7-0 at half-time, but a better second half gave us a 43-0 victory that takes us nicely into the Gary Gold era.

Padova weren’t great but a win is a win, we got seven tries and kept a clean sheet, you can’t ask for more than that.

The crowd was subdued though (including myself); it was I think only the second time I’ve known the North Stand be audible from the South.

In terms of numbers, the official attendance was 2,800-odd but I doubt there were many more than 1,000 actually in KP.

Back to matters on the pitch and there were a number of good performances, particularly from Tom Catterick, James Hall, Richard Mayhew and James Fitzpatrick, Fitzy being an early replacement.

Joel Hodgson had a decent game at 10, three missed conversions notwithstanding, and Ashley Wells showed promise as a winger if Luke Fielden and Jeremy Manning are not fit for Lyon!

That would obviously be quite a blow, since Jerry has been in good form of late and Fielden remains our most dangerous finisher.

There isn’t a great deal we can read into this game since we would surely have won it even if Alan Tait had still been in charge.

But lets be positive as we go on. After the last few games we really needed that big win!

Onwards and upwards.

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Petrarca Padova

Sunday 15January 2012, 3.30pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Amlin Challenge Cup Pool 2 #5

 

Our four-week break from the Premiership begins this weekend as Petrarca Padova visit KP in the Amlin Challenge Cup. What could have been a no-win for Alan Tait (lose and its further evidence he should go, win and its only Padova) will now likely be the only match in charge for Paul Moriarty.

 

Everything seems happier rugby-wise since yesterday’s announcement that Gary Gold and Mike Ford will take over next week for the rest of the season.

 

Obviously nobody should be expecting us to win the Challenge Cup or LV= Cup, or win the Premiership next season if we stay up, but there is now cause for optimism.

 

Moving to Sunday, Moriarty might find himself with a dilemma on selection.

 

Do we rest first-teamers for the coming four cup games to keep them fit and fresh for Bath in the league in February? I’m thinking of people like Gopperth, Murray (who won’t be playing Sunday anyway of course), Shiells, Welch, Fielden. Or do we play our best side in the hope of getting some morale-boosting wins?

 

You could say that the top players don’t deserve a rest, considering some of the performances recently. Although then again, don’t the fringe players like Catterick, Chudley, Fearn, Wilson deserve a chance?

 

I think I’d rotate a bit for the European games, and then bring back the full team for Sale in the LV= Cup at the end of January, and certainly for Leicester away in February, the week before we go to Bath. You’d think though that Gold will want to get a first team together over the coming four games.

 

Turning to Padova, it is the third time in six seasons we have been drawn against the Italians, and so far we have five wins, following our 3-34 win at Stadio Plebiscito in November. Tim Swinson’s brace was added to other tries by Jamie Helleur, Ryan Shortland, Jeremy Manning and Joe Graham as we got a bonus point win, our third in three visits to Veneto in northern Italy.

 

Overall we have scored 27 tries against Petrarca but conceded only four. Anything else but a win on Sunday will mean we are in a real crisis, if we aren’t already.

 

Petrarca in Newcastle:

20/10/2007 (European Challenge Cup) W50-5

22/01/2010 (Amlin Challenge Cup) W20-3

 

I’m just looking at the teams from that last game in 2010, Rob Miller started at inside centre for us. That can’t have happened too often.

 

Petrarca are the current Italian Super 10 / National Championship of Excellence champions, having beaten Rovigo Delta 18-14 in the final, but the league is obviously no longer the top level of club rugby over there since Aironi and Treviso joined the Celtic League.

 

Behind Amatori Rugby Milano and Treviso, Petrarca are third in the table of league champions with 12 titles.

 

Padova don’t have any hugely-recognisable names in their squad, though there are a splattering of Italian internationals. So far they have lost all four of their matches in Europe so far in 2011/12, the most recent being the double header against Lyon in December. Most recent was a 3-43 hammering at home to the French side the weekend before Christmas, their only points coming through a penalty by Eoghan Hickey.

 

So, again, a defeat would be a shock on Sunday. Hopefully since Semore Kurdi has taken action following the defeats to Exeter and Northampton, he will be rewarded with a half-decent crowd.

 

Come on Falcons fans, Sunday is a new start so lets give the team the support they deserve!

 

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

Falcons appoint Gold and Ford to replace Tait

So I had a nice preview (well, a preview) for Sunday’s game ready to upload today, but there is only one news story at Kingston Park today – Alan Tait has been replaced with Gary Gold as Director of Rugby, while Mike Ford also joins us as defence coach.

I imagine most supporters will have had the same reaction as me: “About time!”  Although at times last season the Falcons produced far better rugby than Steve Bates even knew could be played, in 2011/12 the performances have been poor, culminating in the horror show against Exeter last weekend.

We are in massive danger of relegation, so a change had to be made. Tait’s record in charge is not pretty: 52 games, 14 wins, two draws and 36 defeats.

Although there was a first cup final in seven years in amongst that, last season’s LV= Cup Final, Tait’s time in charge was not good enough overall and he had to go.  I for one though would like to thank him for his hard work as we move into the future.

It just goes to show that the popular choice (Tait seemed to be the supporters’ favourite to replace Bates in 2010) is not always the right decision.

The arrival of Gold and Ford out of the blue however has been universally welcomed though.

Gold was previously forwards coach with South Africa for four years under Peter de Villiers and apparently applied for the still-vacant top job, and had three years as manager at London Irish in the early 2000s. He has also been involved with the Stormers in Super Rugby and held the head coach position at Western Province.

During Gold’s time with the Springboks they won the Tri Nations and beat the Lions on their 2009 tour to the Cape.

He isn’t very popular with some London Irish fans though.

Ford also has experience of Premiership management, having been head coach at Saracens for a season before joining England as defence coach in May 2006. He has also been inducted into the Castleford Tigers hall of fame, having spent several years with the club during his career as a scrum-half in rugby league.

He is also the father of young fly-halves George Ford and Joe Ford, currently playing at Leicester and Leeds respectively.

Gold and Ford are initially at KP until the end of the season, and presumably have the brief to keep us in the Premiership. Paul Moriarty will take charge against Petrarca Padova on Sunday, before the new boys start the following week.

We wanted change, and now we have it. Let’s get behind the boys on Sunday and get the cup games off to a good start, follow that through and get some momentum going into the Premiership again in February!

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