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)