Saturday 7th January 2012 – 3.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #13
The Falcons face a do-or-die meeting with Exeter on Saturday. Defeat, coupled with wins for Worcester against Gloucester and (however unlikely) Wasps at Leicester, would make it seemingly impossible for us to climb off the bottom of the table.
The Chiefs were third in the table not long ago, but have now fallen to eighth. They are just five points behind Northampton and Leicester though, who sit third and fourth. It has been a mixed second season in the Premiership but, as with 2010/11, our visitors are in little danger of relegation.
Last season Exeter visited the north three times, once in each competition, though the first, in the Amlin Challenge Cup, was moved to Galashiels due to heavy snow. The Falcons won that match to keep ourselves in with a slim chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals, though that didn’t come off.
A 17-3 win at KP in February secured us a place in the LV= Cup semi-finals, before a 13-23 in the Premiership clash two weeks later. A second-half James Hudson try put us ahead but a try by the Chiefs gave them the lead straight back.
Exeter in the North East / Galashiels:
03/01/1998 (Tetley’s Bitter Cup) W34-10
19/12/2010 (Amlin Challenge Cup) W26-24
06/02/2011 (LV= Cup) W17-3
18/02/2011 (Premiership) L13-23
Obviously we’ve already been beaten heavily at Sandy Park this season, back in September, so a win on Saturday would be our first in the league against Exeter.
Exeter have already won at Leicester and Sale in the league this season, so they are clearly no mugs away from home, and though they have lost their last two Premiership matches to London Irish and Harlequins, they won their previous five matches in all competitions and will be more than satisfied with their start to the season, being secure in the Premiership and in with a chance of reaching the Amlin quarter-finals.
Rob Baxter has built his side’s success upon a solid foundation of forward power, as well as accurate kicking from the likes of Gareth Steenson and Ryan Davis. That said, they have some other talented loose backs, such as Argentinian international Gonzalo Camacho, formerly of Harlequins, Luke Arscott and Matt Jess, as well as Samoan international Josh Tatupo.
It will be interesting to see which backline Alan Tait picks on Saturday, though this will probably again be dictated by who is fit. Hopefully there were no new injuries against the Saints. It is in the forwards where this game is likely to be won however, so if Jon Golding fancies making an unannounced return I’m sure nobody would complain.
On a personal note, I think Saturday games are great, there’s no work during the day (unless you work Saturdays) before the match, and you can drink as much as you want because you aren’t at work the next day (unless you work Sundays). Not that I’m advocating anyone drink anything more than a sneaky sip from a hipflask of course!
Let’s hope there’s been some intensive lineout training this week.