Match reaction: Ulster Rugby 24-20 Newcastle Falcons

Although I’ve only seen one of our Falcons’ pre-season games, that v Edinburgh, by all accounts we look to be in pretty good shape heading into the Championship season.

Last night’s 24-20 defeat to Ulster isn’t a bad result in a friendly (obviously in a competitive game it would be) considering they are the second-best team in Europe and we are, well, second division.

Dean Richards took charge last night for the first time and lets remember he has been away from the coal face for three years.

With Ulster 24-8 up in the closing stages, the Falcons kept plugging away and got two late tries, something that a year ago we might have been more surprised.

Especially since Taiasina Tu’ifua spent more time in the sin bin. Hopefully he’ll be in there a bit less this season.

So we can probably deduce a few things about team selection from the friendlies. Oliver Tomaszczyk looks likely to start in the number three shirt at Bristol next Sunday, alongside Rob Vickers in the front row.

Jimmy Gopperth, Rory Lawson and captain Will Welch are likely to be automatic selections most weeks, probably joined by returning midfielder Tane Tu’ipulotu and Lawson’s compatriot Ally Hogg.

Carlo del Fava, Scott MacLeod and James Hudson might rotate in the second row.

We seem set to see little of Greg Goosen and Michael Mayhew, judging by pre-season, although there will inevitably be injuries.

So a week tomorrow we head to Bristol to start the league season with infinitely more optimism than when we took on Bath a year ago.

So much has happened since then that it seems an age ago, but the key is that the club has rediscovered its pride and self-respect, have probably our strongest coaching team ever, and the fans are back on-side.

The fact we are in the Championship will hopefully prove only a blip. But one we can enjoy with some great new away days.

Viva la revolucion!

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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