Friday 23rd March 2012 – 7.45pm
Aviva Premiership #18
If the Falcons are going to have a chance of staying in the Premiership under their own steam, tomorrow night would be a perfect time to get a first win at Worcester in over seven years.
Worcester appear to be safe from relegation, being 12 points ahead of us in the table, but will want to make absolutely sure of not falling straight back into the Championship by beating us.
Should we lose at Sixways and Wasps beat Northampton on Saturday, then the gap at the bottom would be anything between 10 and 13 points, and with only four games left, three more wins that the Pests would perhaps be too much.
However, were the results to be the other way around, then we could be as little as three points behind Wasps and we play next – by next Friday night we could be off the bottom!
Lets not get ahead of ourselves though. As I’ve said, we have not been victorious at Worcester since September 2004, when Jonny Wilkinson played only his second competitive club game in 16 months, alongside debutant Colin Charvis. After our 9-30 victory that day, we have a run of defeats in WR3.
Falcons at Sixways:
25/01/1998 Cup R5 W10-0
04/09/2004 Premiership W30-9
28/04/2006 Premiership L27-35
16/03/2007 Premiership L21-23
25/04/2008 Challenge Cup SF L16-31
10/05/2008 Premiership L10-51
21/11/2008 Premiership L11-26
07/11/2009 Cup L6-32
26/02/2010 Premiership L0-13
So far this season the Warriors have had mixed results at their home ground. Following promotion in 2010/11 they won their first match back in the top flight when they hosted Sale, before losing to Harlequins, Wasps and Leicester at home, though they did beat Northampton in the midst of those losses.
Only two Premiership games have been held in Worcester in 2012, but both Gloucester and champions Saracens have been sent packing with defeats.
In addition to those, Worcester have beaten Wasps and Ospreys at Sixways in the LV= Cup and Bucharest Wolves and Banca Monte Crociati in Europe, but lost at home to Stade Francais back in October.
Their last outing three weeks ago was a 36-17 reverse at the Rec, when Tom Arscott and Miles Benjamin tries were not enough against the five-try Bathplugs.
The Falcons have of course recently re-signed Adam Balding, who left us for Worcester in 2010, but the two clubs have agreed that he will not play tomorrow night. Another link between the clubs is Polish-descended but London-born prop Oliver Tomaszcyzk. A former Falcons academy member, Tomaszczyk has mainly been used as a replacement in the Premiership this season but has started seven cup games.
Then there is our incoming Director of Rugby Dean Richards, who acted as an adviser at Sixways during his ban.
Peter Stringer will make his long-awaited Falcons debut tomorrow night, and James Goode makes his first start in the second row. Corne Uys is back from injury too and Jon Golding and Matt Thompson are in the front row alongside Euan Murray.
Falcons: 15 Jeremy Manning, 14 Corne Uys, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Alex Tait, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Peter Stringer, 1 Jon Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Euan Murray, 4 Tim Swinson, 5 James Goode, 6 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 7 Will Welch, 8 Ally Hogg.
Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Grant Shiells, 18 Ashley Wells, 19 Adriaan Fondse, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Will Chudley, 22 Rikki Sheriffe, 23 Greg Goosen.
So after three weeks and the Six Nations taking attention away from the club game for two months, it’s now time for the real business to start.
How the Falcons have been doing so far in 2012 suggests relegation would not be a disaster (if we come straight back up), but it would be good to get a head-start on the new era by beginning it in the Premiership. A win tomorrow night looks vital to ensuring that happens.
Oh, and if you are going to be listening to the game on BBC Radio Newcastle, you will hear me in the fanzone. So far I have a record of two (bonus point) wins, one draw and one defeat when doing games in the West Country!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)