It’s been another hell of a season watching Newcastle Falcons, that’s for certain. From the dull defeat to Bath on the opening day, through to the ultimately hollow victory at Wasps just a couple of weeks ago, it’s been a rollercoaster ride that we don’t yet know the result of, due to the Championship playoffs.
Alan Tait’s second full season in charge (as it was expected to be) saw a morale-boosting Premiership Sevens victory at the Stoop back in early August, the small but merry band of Falcons supporters enjoying a tense final win over Saracens in the final before invading the executive stand to celebrate with the team.
Unfortunately the league season did not promise similar returns. The first game was a meeting with Bath at Kingston Park, our third successive match against the Bathplugs after finishing 2010/11 home and away to them. For the third time out of three, it was the southwesterners who were successful. Although debutants Jamie Helleur and Richard Mayhew performed well, the game was dour, the Falcons playing in the style of Steve Bates that we had hoped had been forgotten.
Defeats to Exeter, Leicester and London Irish followed, in fact a 15-10 win over Wasps was our only success in the first six Premiership matches.
More significant perhaps was the news that Semore Kurdi had taken full control of the club, replacing Dave Thompson as chairman. Uncle Semore soon began a review of the club’s structure, that would lead to big changes on the playing side later in the season.
Following a win over Cardiff and another defeat at Irish in the first half of the LV= Cup group campaign, and a league loss at Northampton, a key game arrived in early November.
The ESPN cameras came north for the visit of our relegation rivals Worcester, but frustratingly we were only able to manage a draw with the newly-promoted Warriors. The calls for managerial changes grew louder.
No changes came yet, although after we defeated Lyon and Petrarca Padova in Europe, new signings Taiasina Tu’ifua, Suka Hufanga and Adriaan Fondse made their debuts in a loss at Harlequins.
The next home game was another key one, a match we dared not lose, at home to Gloucester. On a dark, tense evening at KP in early December, Jordi Pasqualin scored against his former club and the Falcons held on for a 26-25 victory, only our second of the league season.
A home win and away defeat against Toulon in the Challenge Cup followed, the first played in freezing conditions when the players on both sides deserved huge credit for putting on an entertaining game, even if the score was restricted to 6-3.
Over the Christmas period the Falcons lost to Sale on Boxing Day and then Northampton ensured a happy new year for themselves with a bonus point victory at KP on New Year’s Eve. Tom May was among the scorers on his first return to the North East for a competitive match.
Next up was Exeter at home, our last league game for a month and one that looked pivotal on the back of Worcester’s win at Wasps, although the Pests were beginning to look like being dragged into the relegation battle themselves.
Near the end of the game against Exeter, Tim Swinson scored a try to bring the score back to 10-16, but there was only muted celebration by the home fans. Having watched a truly awful performance, we knew there was little chance of a winner. I myself, for only the second time ever, had been tempted to leave the game early.
Something had to change otherwise there seemed little chance of the Falcons finishing anywhere other than 12th in the Premiership.
Part 2 coming next week.
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