Sunday 2 September 2012 – 3.00pm
Memorial Stadium, Bristol
RFU Championship #1
15 years ago we had only spent one league season out of the second tier, while Bristol had never experienced it. Now, we visit the South West in our first game in the lower division since then. Having spent three years in the Championship Bristol will be as keen as us to get back to the Premiership and this game already looks like an indicator of whose ambitions, if either, will be fulfilled.
Yes, the season finally begins and we can see the Richards Revolution in full swing!
The fixture list has not been kind to either of the promotion favourites by sending us to Bristol on the opening day of the season but if we can get the win, or maybe even repeat our last visit to the Memorial Stadium, then it will set a marker down after what may be on paper the hardest game of the year.
The last time we were in Bristol, if you don’t know was ‘Judgement Day’ on Friday 13th February 2009. We were seven points above the hosts and had the opportunity to all-but send them down with a win, while if Bristol were victorious they would have a chance of overtaking us.
In the end we didn’t need to worry, as tries by Geoff Parling, Ed Williamson, Brent Wilson and Andy Perry grabbed five points in a 3-35 win. It was Glory Night I, and only our second victory at the Mem in the league, the other being a huge 8-50 on the way to the 1997/98 title.
Falcons in BS10:
08/02/1975 Cup R2 W13-3
23/02/1980 Cup R2 W14-3
04/12/1993 Division 1 L0-26
27/12/1997 Premiership 1 W50-8
23/04/2000 Premiership 1 L11-30
17/12/2000 Premiership L14-27
24/02/2002 Premiership L17-33
10/11/2002 Premiership L10-38
09/04/2006 Premiership L7-23
18/02/2007 Premiership L21-22
14/10/2007 Premiership L16-23
13/02/2009 Premiership W35-3
Bristol had a tricky pre-season schedule and lost at Agen, Narbonne and Munster, though they were not disgraced by any of the scores, before finishing off by thumping Clifton at Cribbs Causeway last Thursday night.
Liam Middleton has assembled a decent squad ahead of his side’s fourth attempt to get back to the Premiership, with 32-year-old, 43-cap Scottish prop Bruce Douglas joining from Worcester and potentially pairing up with Jason Hobson, who has one England cap as a replacement in New Zealand in 2008. Argentinian international Gaston Cortes joined this week but is still awaiting a visa.
Half-backs Adrian Jarvis and James Grindal, much-maligned at KP but popular in two spells at Leicester, have masses of top level experience, as does former Bedford and Harlequins forward Roy Winters, now starting his eighth season with Bris.
Former Saracens winger Mike Tagicakibau played in last year’s World Cup for Fiji. Grindal is joined in the squad by several other former Falcons, namely Glen Townson, Luke Eves and Redford Pennycook, the latter pair in their second spells in the South West after returning to the Memorial Stadium during last season.
More quirkily, former Exeter centre Bryan Rennie also arrived in the summer and is sponsored by his own fan club!
For his first competitive match in charge, Dean Richards gives debuts to Andrew Higgins, Alex Crockett and Oliver Tomaszczyk, while Tane Tu’ipulotu is a starter on his return, as is, more surprisingly, Sean Tomes. Rory Lawson and Waisea Luveniyali are on the bench.
Falcons: 15 Luke Fielden, 14 Andrew Higgins, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Chris Pilgrim, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 James Hudson, 6 Ally Hogg, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Scott MacLeod, 19 Richard Mayhew, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 James Fitzpatrick, 22 Waisea Luveniyali.
Bristol: 15 Jon Goodridge, 14 Mike Tagicakibau, 13 Jack Gadd, 12 Luke Eves, 11 Ryan Edwards, 10 Tristan Roberts, 9 James Grindal, 1 Kyle Traynor, 2 Ross Johnston, 3 Wayne Thompson, 4 Mariano Sambucetti, 5 Glen Townson, 6 Ian Grieve (c) 7 Redford Pennycook, 8 Marco Mama.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Lawrence, 17 Bruce Douglas, 18 Ben Glyn, 19 James Merriman, 20 Ruki Tipuna, 21 Matthew Jones, 22 David McIlwaine.
After a nice summer recovering from the relegation battle of last season (though I think I’m still recovering from Gloucester!) it’s time to get going again.
Howay the Falcons!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)