Saturday 31 December 2011 – 2.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #12
Despite reports of abusive behaviour by a tiny minority of home ‘fans’ who seem to have forgotten just what he did for us over 10 years, Tom May will have enjoyed his first competitive appearance back at KP yesterday.
The Falcons legend’s try gave his new team Northampton a bonus point to go with the four they had already secured.
As for us, well the end of 2011 offers us the ideal opportunity to draw a line under what has, whichever way you look at it, been a horrible Premiership season so far.
We have been six points adrift with 14 games gone before and survived, so after 12 (though Worcester have today’s visit to Wasps in hand) this isn’t irretrievable.
But something needs to change. Perhaps starting with the losing mentality. It’s obviously not as simple as just saying “Remember this feeling, the feeling of defeat, and promise yourself and each other you won’t feel it again.” That might be a start though.
What DOES definitely need to happen is we must cut out the stupid errors that put us on the back foot. After we gifted Sale two tries on Boxing Day, Ben Foden’s tries yesterday originated from an overthrown lineout and missing touch from a penalty respectively.
For most of the first 50 or so minutes we were in the game, and without Foden’s tries we might well have been further ahead than 14-13, the only time we were in the lead.
While we’re on the topic of errors, just what was going on with the lineouts yesterday? It wasn’t just Rob Vickers’ fault, though some throws were wild, as was one by his replacement Joe Graham later on. The jumping and lifting were occasinally suspect, and sometimes the Saints were successfully disruptive.
Tackling was poor, I’ll mention James Fitzpatrick but he was not the only one to miss a few.
I’m still waiting for someone to explain to me what can go so wrong if players sprint after kicks. Hopefully Alan Tait noticed how successfully Northampton used the kick-and-chase, because our players obviously didn’t.
Believe it or not, there were some positives aspects in the game. Will Welch continued his fine form with some strong carries and tackling, and he deserved his man of the match award. He must be up there with Grant Shiells for our player of the season so far.
Jeremy Manning and particularly Suka Hufanga looked dangerous on the wings, Suka taking his try well. Jimmy Gopperth was lively, and our forwards dealt with Northampton’s rolling maul well for the most part.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I thought all of our three festive league games were winnable, and I was looking for a minimum of two victories. We have lost the first two and helped beat ourselves both times.
Depending on Worcester’s next two results, it is maybe not yet time for the Supporters’ Club to buy a map to Penzance, but if we lose to Exeter they should probably look for where to buy one.
Happy New Year.
Newcastle try: Hufanga. Penalties: Gopperth 3.
Northampton tries: Foden 2, Tonga’uiha, May. Conversions: Lamb 2, Myler. Penalties: Lamb 2.
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