Friday 20th April 2012 – 7.45pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #21
Anger and frustration were probably the biggest emotions I felt at full-time last night, after watching the Falcons inexplicably squander a huge opportunity to go level on points with Wasps at the bottom.
As it is, since we got only a losing bonus point from Saracens at KP, the Pests have the chance to secure their Premiership status with a game to spare if they win at Bath this afternoon. Three months of hard work will have been wasted because of 60 minutes of absolute stupidity last night.
Last week we pulled off our first win at Gloucester since 1998, playing ball in hand and taking the home side on up front. So you would be forgiven for expecting us to play a similar way last night, since it is proven that we can win with that style of play.
But no. For the first hour the Falcons were content to waste possession by kicking aimlessly to Saracens and letting them dictate the play. Not that Saracens were much better, and if ESPN were regretting not putting our last home game v Sale on live, neutral viewers won’t have been happy with much of the fare last night.
That is the most frustrating thing – for defending champions going for a second successive title, Saracens were poor. In the first half they looked content to frustrate us, nick a win if they could, but mostly try to avoid serious injuries. The Falcons were too stupid to realise they were there for the taking. I said as much at half-time, when the atmosphere seemed thick with frustration rather than the excitement that should have been all around.
Then around the hour, I can only assume that James Hudson told the players to switch styles, as that is the only way I can explain it. We kept the ball in hand, pounded into Saracens and something happened that no doubt surprised everyone within the club but not on the terraces.
We actually started playing better! For much of the last 15 minutes the Falcons battered the Saracens line and a couple of times were only inches away from a try that would have set us up for a conversion to win the game. Unfortunately it was not enough, we ran out of time.
If the Falcons had played like they did in the last 20 minutes for the first 60 too, I’ve no doubt we would have won and won well. That we didn’t gives Wasps the opportunity to (Bristol permitting) relegating us this afternoon.
Lets not have any talk of the referee – JP Doyle and his assistants were poor, missing a late shoulder-charge to the leg on Peter Stringer for one – but in the last 20 minutes we gave away very little and he did card Justin Melck for what many believe was a fairly innocuous offence.
The Falcons have only themselves to blame for the rubbish they served up to just over 8,000 people last night. Many will probably be glad they didn’t pay full price.
So, we now have to hope the Bathplugs do us a favour at the Rec this afternoon and allow us to go to Adams Park still with a chance of overtaking Wasps.
But it didn’t have to be that way.
A word on the new shirts – the replica ones don’t look too bad, mainly because they seem to have less red on. However, the Falcons just don’t look right out on the pitch in that kit, at least not to me. Maybe I’ll get used to it. Maybe we’ll see a lot more tries next season if we do end up going down. If we do it’ll be our own fault.
(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)