Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 53-10 Leeds Carnegie

 

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Friday 28 September 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #5

So as myself and wor lass walked out of the theatre under Charing Cross station (canny show, worth paying for had we not got free tickets) about 9.45pm last night I felt my phone go.

It was a message from one of the other choir members saying simply “You alright fella?” Apparently missing a game leads to concerns about my health!

As Mark Twain said, “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Still, I worked out yesterday that last night and Pirates is the first time I’ve missed two consecutive league games since I was in Leipzig, back in 2004. And it’s always nice to know people care.

Anyway so the game seems to have gone quite well – obviously a 53-10 win is always nice. From what I’ve read we seem to have been a bit sluggish in the first half again.

But we were still a couple of tries up at the break and then turned it on in the second 40.

I suppose there are still some cobwebs being ironed out of the ointment, particularly in the backs it seems.

The forwards were strong again I hear though we might expect to physically dominate most packs in the Championship given the quality players we have in there.

That might lead to less ball for the backs, if the forwards can do things themselves. It might be something we fans have to live with sometimes even if we do want to see the backs dancing. Metaphorically speaking.

The attendance was again around four and a half thousand, not bad for this league I guess.

We might have expected more with the BOGOF offer provided this week but I really believe that some more big wins will see the ground more than half-full before long.

We aren’t too far behind Bristol in terms of crowd numbers despite one or two of their supporters believing we play in front of two men and a badger.

And of course that they’d have hammered us a few weeks ago if only they hadn’t had “Nine first-choice players missing”.

“Mind the doors! Mind the doors!”

Anyway I’m getting off the point. Lets have a look at the table… still top, good, with 24 points out of 25 and the best attack and best defence in the division!

Six points ahead of Plymouth and seven above Bedford, though the Les Bleus can move back into second with a win at bottom-placed Jersey today.

Moseley away is up next a week today as the Championship fun times continue!

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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Leeds Carnegie

Friday 28 September 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #5

 

The first local derby (or the nearest we’ll get to it) takes place at KP tomorrow night as we renew hostilities with Leeds after a year off. Always a popular game for away fans whether played in the North East or Yorkshire, the Falcons will be hoping for a big crowd last night following four successive wins and the announcement of a special offer on tickets.

 

The Cardigans haven’t had a bad start to the season, with two wins and no less than FIVE bonus points from their first four matches. Bonus-point wins at home to Jersey and Bristol, the latter on Sunday 50-31, have helped them into fifth in the table alongside defeats at Nottingham and Plymouth, both by less than the magic seven-point margin.

 

On the south coast two weeks ago the Yorkshiremen scored five tries but came away with only the two points as Plymouth continued their own good start with a 32-31 win.

 

There is a current Falcon in the Leeds squad in hooker Joe Graham, who made his first start in green, black and white hoops against Bristol. One of the try-scorers was Fred Burdon, a Geordie-born former academy Falcon, who played in the backline alongside the talented David Doherty, now in his second spell at Headingley around time with Sale, Wasps, Jersey and Cornish Pirates.

 

We have a long history with Leeds, well, their predecessor clubs Roundhay and Headingley anyway, having first met them in 1952 and 1963 respectively. The Tykes, as they used to be, have been regular Premiership opponents of ours for much of the past decade, and though we had the best of our first few meetings, the Falcons have only won one of the past five competitive games, at Headingley in February last year.

 

Leeds at KP:

09/12/1995 Club Match                W33-0

21/10/2001 Premiership               W19-8

29/09/2002 Premiership               W27-20

15/02/2004 Premiership               L25-28

14/11/2004 Premiership               W29-16

06/05/2006 Premiership               W54-19

05/10/2007 Premiership               W21-19

27/12/2009 Premiership               L15-16

09/04/2011 Premiership               L29-30

19/08/2011 Friendly                      W36-5

11/08/2012 Friendly                      W52-19

 

That last league duel at KP in April 2011 was not a very enjoyable game from a black point of view. Leading 20-7 with the clock on zero for half-time, Jeremy Manning had a rush of blood to the head and tried to keep play active on our own line, allowing Peter Wackett to score a converted try that should never have been.

 

Another try early in the second half after a penalty put Leeds ahead and Jimmy Gopperth and Adrian Jarvis traded kicks until the Cardies secured a vital win that could have sent us down, but in the end didn’t by the smallest of margins – points difference.

 

The previous game at Christmas 2009 was a slug-fest in the mud that left the home crowd very unhappy and that’s all I’ll say about that.

 

 

Jimmy Gopperth plays another game at full-back tomorrow as Joel Hodgson continues at fly-half. Mark Wilson gets a first start of the season and Carlo del Fava is on from the start for the first time.  Ally Hogg continues as captain with Will Welch still injured.

 

Falcons: 15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 James Hudson, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Ally Hogg (c).

 

Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Scott MacLeod, 19 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Alex Tait, 22 Jamie Helleur.

 

 

Joe Graham is not in the visiting team due to being on loan, the experienced Phil Nilsen starting at hooker as he gets closer to 100 games for Leeds, but Burdon does make his first senior start at KP. Matt Smith and Dan Hemingway provide an arty second row.

 

Leeds: 15 Stevie McColl, 14 Curtis Wilson, 13 Josh Griffin, 12 Fred Burdon, 11 David Doherty, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Craig Hampson, 1 Sam Lockwood, 2 Phil Nilsen, 3 Damien Tussac, 4 Matt Smith, 5 Dan Hemingway, 6 Jacob Rowan (c), 7 Chris Walker, 8 Rob Baldwin.

 

Replacements: 16 Harry Hannan, 17 Lee Imiolek, 18 Ben Hooper, 19 Calum Green, 20 Richard Beck, 21 James Doherty, 22 Jamel Chisholm.

 

 

Time was I used to always go to Leeds away but never at home, and it looks like that will happen again this season. For those of you going tomorrow night, the ticket offer is on until midday tomorrow. Hope those in the North Stand don’t get too wet!

 

 

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

Match reaction: Cornish Pirates 3-25 Newcastle Falcons

Sunday 23 September 2012 – 3.00pm

Mennaye Field, Penzance

RFU Championship #4

 

For those of us unable to get to yesterday’s game town on the south-western tip of England, there were more options than usual to follow the game – more than we will often find in the Championship anyway.

 

Not only was there the usual Twitter feeds (Champers did a ‘sparkling’ job with that!), but also sufficient technics in place for BBC Radio Newcastle to offer commentary, and the option to stream from the Pirates’ website for the not-bad price of £15.

 

As might be expected, the Falcons showed the game live at KP for those fans who couldn’t travel.

 

As for me, I was stuck with Twitter in the second half, having spent the first half in the pub watching football with a mate from up north. 3-13 was a decent score to find at the break, in what was expected to be (and no doubt was) a very difficult game, made worse by rain of biblical proportions. “Brutal” is how Jordi Pasqualin described the weather post-match.

 

A 3-25 win is nothing to be sniffed at. Dean Richards said in the week that he’d be happy with four points (aren’t we always?) and I heard that he had targeted nine points from this and the Bristol game, which we have achieved.

 

We have now won away to two of the other top-four favourites, with Bedford coming up in just under six weeks’ time. If we are still unbeaten after that then things will look very good indeed as far as the regular season is concerned.

 

I think this is now our best league run since the previous seven-wins-out-of-eight under Steve Bates in early 2009, and going back to last season we have now won our last FIVE away league games, I would bet the last time we did that was in the title-winning 1997/98 season. Of course, the last four games have been in the Championship, but the games still have to be won.

 

I and others have said several times that not every game will be a 50-pointer, and yesterday will have been very difficult, but to come away with a 3-25 victory against a good side in conditions that will have made playing rugby very difficult is a good sign.

 

Turning to individuals, I don’t know how he played generally but after a good performance against Doncaster it was pleasing to see Tom Catterick score yesterday, I think he might be one of the surprises this season. Along with Joel Hodgson, dropping down a division should give us the chance to give TC some decent games and see whether he is likely to become a regular.

 

By all accounts everyone of a northern persuasion had a great time in Cornwall, even young Smithy after a throwaway comment about the Mennaye Field being “ramshackle” caused a bit of controversy on the internet. I really, really hope we get another visit to Penzance later in the season so myself and those who could not go this time don’t miss out on what is one of the best reasons to be in the Championship.

 

For now though, don’t forget that there are ticket offers on for the Leeds game on Friday – two-for-one for most people or three-for-one extra tickets for season ticket holders.

 

After Leeds’ 50-31 victory over Bristol at Headingley yesterday, the nearest thing we have to a local derby should be entertaining. Again I can’t go but them’s the breaks.

 

 

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

Match preview: Cornish Pirates v Newcastle Falcons

Sunday 23 September 2012 – 3.00pm

Mennaye Field, Penzance

RFU Championship #4

 

Relegation isn’t such a bad thing when you have places like Penzance to go to. It’s a place I would imagine few of us have ever thought of going to but they have a very good rugby team and, on and off the pitch, this Sunday should be a cracking day.

 

I’m really disappointed I can’t go myself, but there’s always the play-offs, hopefully.

 

Since Cornish Pirates have been runners-up in the Championship for the past two seasons, there is every reason to believe we might face the long trip from England’s northernmost city to one of its very westernmost settlements again come April.

 

Nine hours-plus and most likely over £100 on the train, if you were wondering.

 

The Falcons have never met the Pirates before, nor their predecessor clubs Penzance and Newlyn who combined after World War II to form a club named, imaginatively, Penzance & Newlyn.

 

The Pirates are almost 80 miles from the nearest other professional rugby club, Plymouth Albion, not quite as many as the 103 miles between KP and Headingley in Leeds, though their location at the far western tip of Cornwall does leave them pretty isolated. But we don’t just have geographical remoteness in professional rugby common.

 

Tom Bedford, who played a few games for the Falcons on a short-term contract last season, is in the Pirates squad, and one of the quirkier members of side is hooker Rob Elloway. Why? Because he has two caps for Germany, no less.

 

I wish I could find a photo of a German rugby shirt with the Newcastle Brown Ale logo on, so I would know I’m not just imagining that your favourite Geordie tipple and mine used to sponsor them.

 

Anyway, the Pirates have had a low-key start to the season in some ways, beginning with a 6-20 victory in Jersey in the desirable-away-trip-destination derby, before a 19-17 proper derby win over Plymouth. Last week, the first televised Championship game of the season saw Bristol defeat the Pirates 29-17. Luke Eves was again among the Bristol scorers.

 

Bedford started all three games on the right wing, having also in the first XV for the pre-season friendlies against Exeter and Newport.

 

 

Dean Richards has made an interesting call in the team this week by starting Joel Hodgson at fly-half, the little fella’s first league start, Jimmy Gopperth continuing at the back. Tom Catterick is rewarded for a good display against Doncaster with another start on the wing, and in the absence of Will Welch the side will be captained by Ally Hogg. Welch’s place is taken by Taiasina Tu’ifua. Carlo Del Fava could make a debut on the bench.

 

Falcons: 15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 James Hudson, 6 Ally Hogg (c), 7 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 8 Richard Mayhew.

 

Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Carlo del Fava, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Jamie Helleur, 22 Alex Tait.

 

 

While this game isn’t live on Sky, Pirates are streaming it on their website for £15 a time, and it’ll be on in the bar at KP for those not going.

 

This should be a good game against a strong side and if we can get a fourth win, the regular season will be going very well indeed.

 

 

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

Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 37-3 Doncaster Knights

 

Friday 14 September 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #3

 

 

The Falcons may have made hard work of beating Doncaster last night but 15 points out of 15 is as much we can expect so it was hardly a disastrous evening.

 

Fair enough most people seemed to expect 50 points but it doesn’t always go that way and Doncaster are not a bad team, they were very dogged and got away with a lot, bar the two yellow cards obviously, though the referee had little choice with either.

 

At the end of the day, the 22-game regular season is just an audition for the play-offs and the Premiership next season and this was just game three. All we have to do in this stage is finish in the top four.

 

Obviously there is a lot to work on as plenty of players have said on Twitter, but the season hasn’t been bad so far, certainly compared to most of the last few.

 

There were some good shows last night, Rory Lawson looks like he can do more with the ball in hand than pretty much any scrum-half we’ve had since the Armstrong, and I thought James Hudson and Jonny Golding had storming games. The forwards were generally solid bar a couple of dodgy scrums.

 

The backs seemed to lack a bit of direction and I’m afraid I have to agree with those who say that Waisea Luveniyali wasn’t great. I’m not sure where he really fits in when we have Gopperth, Hodgson and if need be Catterick. The pace seemed to pick up when Joel Hodgson came on for a lively cameo.

 

In fact I thought he had scored the third try, or maybe it was Lawson. The person in front of me thought it was Mark Wilson. The offy says Hudson. We had no idea, since only one speaker seemed to be working in the South Stand and it was over to the left.

 

Not the best start to the season on that front, nor was the lack of a clock. The one in the South has been completely taken out; with no apparent announcements when the teams came out, I thought maybe the MC had nicked it when he was sacked.

 

We should get the guy who does Sachsen (Chemie) Leipzig games, or at least did in 2004, he knew how to whip up a crowd and probably he wouldn’t even need a microphone.

 

On the plus side, the bars seemed to be quite well-staffed from what I could tell. There was a good, relaxed atmosphere most of the evening, in stark contrast to most games in the Premiership when it is either tense or depressed.

 

Back to matters on the pitch, the result was never really in doubt once the referee finally got bored of Doncaster’s pack infringing and gave a penalty try in the first half. Kicking a few penalties was probably sensible to calm everybody and secure the win, as Doncaster weren’t likely to score a try. If things seem difficult, get the game won first then worry about the tries later. It’s what Leicester have been doing for years and clearly it works.

 

The first half was probably the worst of the six we’ve had in the league so far, but it livened up after the break as Doncaster retired. If we can get a win at Pirates next week, even without a bonus point, that’ll be 19 points after four games and continue the good start.

 

Early contender for quote of the season last night: Me old lady turns to Slacker and says “I’m picking up a dog tomorrow!” (I’m not a big fan of dogs but at least it’s the right colour, black). Slacker turns on the razor-sharp wit: “Well we’ve all done that after a night out.”

 

It seems strange now to think I’ll not be at another game until Moseley away. The big question is whether to stick around in the office and listen to Big Smithy next Sunday, or race home to listen to the game, since I’ll be up at 1.40am on the Monday morning.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Doncaster Knights

Friday 14 September 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #3

 

Tomorrow night KP hosts its first match in the second tier of English rugby since May 1997, as the Falcons and Doncaster meet for the first time in a competitive match.

 

After two tricky trips to Bristol and London Scottish, a hammering of the Knights would be a good way to ease any supporters’ nerves about the rest of the regular season, and the omens look good.

 

We have only played Doncaster twice before in first team games, the last time just a month ago in a friendly arranged before our relegation was confirmed. The first game of a double-header (well, triple if you include Consett v Illinois Tornadoes in between), the Falcons beat the south Yorkshiremen 52-17, thanks to tries from Jimmy Gopperth (2), Taiasina Tu’ifua, Alex Crockett, Will Welch, Alex Tait, Carlo Del Fava and Tom Catterick.

 

The previous meeting was also a pre-season friendly, in August 2007 on a Sunday afternoon less than 24 hours after we had won the Middlesex Sevens at Twickenham for the first and probably only time.

 

Matthew Burke, Tom May, Hall Charlton and Brent Wilson were the try-scorers among a team that notably included James Grindal in the number 10 shirt. Of the team we fielded that day, only Jon Golding of the starting lineup is still at KP, though Matt Thompson was a replacement. Doncaster had Sean Tomes among their replacements, and future Falcon Spencer Davey in the centres.

 

In the Championship so far, the Knights have just one point from two defeats, though they have not been disgraced in losing 9-18 at home to Bristol last Friday and 27-22 at Plymouth on the opening day.

 

They will be looking to improve on last season, which saw an eighth-place finish in the regular season and then six defeats out of six and zero points in a play-off group that included Bristol, Nottingham and our friends at London Welsh.

 

As with probably a lot of squads in the Championship, Doncaster don’t have a lot of instantly-recognisable name, but one that will be familiar to many Falcons fans is Tyson Lewis, who thanks to his lightning pace (and famous name) was a hit with youngsters at the 2011 Premiership Sevens finals when he helped us to second place in the tournament.

 

 

Dean Richards has made several changes for his first home game in charge, with Chris Pilgrim and Ryan Shortland ruled out through injuries but Will Welch fit to captain the team. Scotsmen Rory Lawson and Scott MacLeod makes a first league start, as does Waisea Luveniyali at fly-half, Jimmy Gopperth joining Luke Fielden and Andrew Higgins in the back three. Matt Thompson and James Fitzpatrick make first starts of the season.

 

 

Falcons: 15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Andrew Higgins, 10 Waisea Luveniyali 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 James Hudson, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

 

Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Alex Crockett 21 Jordi Pasqualin, 22 Joel Hodgson.

 

 

Doncaster field Tyson Lewis in their starting lineup, opposite the superbly-named Dante Mama on the other wing:

 

Doncaster: 15 Dougie Flockhart, 14 Dante Mama, 13 Will Simpson, 12 James Tincknell, 11 Tyson Lewis, 10 Jamie Lennard, 9 Chris Hallam, 1 Brian McGovern, 2 Rhys Buckley, 3 Jerry Cronin, 4 Royce Cadman, 5 Phil Hoy, 6 Matt Challinor, 7 Jethro Rawling, 8 Adam Kettle.

 

Replacements: 16 Andy Brown, 17 Ben Sowery, 18 Andy Boyde, 19 David Bradford, 20 Sam Pailor, 21 James Munro, 22 Tom Barrett.

 

 

The Falcons must be massive favourites not just to get a third win, but to make it 15 points out of a possible 15.  This should be a good evening.

 

 

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

Match reaction: London Scottish 32-49 Newcastle Falcons

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Saturday 8 September 2012 – 3.00pm
Richmond Athletic Ground, London
RFU Championship #2

The Falcons are now top of the Championship after gaining 10 points from a possible 10 in the opening two games.

However, yesterday’s game at London Scottish was proof that this is not an easy league.

Dean Richards will have plenty of food for thought ahead of Ftiday’s first home game against Doncaster after Scottish 32 points, including four tries for their own bonus point.

Since they practically handed us the ball for Alex Crockett and James Hall’s tries, the scoreline could well have been closer. Scottish’s penalty try was just a touch controversial though.

The Falcons looked very good with the ball in hand and our maul was very strong, laying the platform for the early tries from Sean Tomes and Ally Hogg.

Hogg has had a great start to the season, scoring a hat-trick yesterday to add to a try at Bristol, and carrying and tackling well.

Richards identified the danger of complacency or not handling the conditions this week, but I don’t think either of those was an issue, Scottish were just really up for the game and are a better side than we fans expected.

In the end though the league table shows us with 10 points and you can’t ask for more than that. The Falcons never looked in danger of losing and took chances when they had to.

Perhaps it is good to get a game like this early in the season to ensure we don’t get complacent against some of the teams not expected to challenge for the play-offs.

Off the pitch it was a brilliant day, a nice little ground with two good bars and a friendly, enthusiastic atmosphere. If this what Championship away days will be like then I certainly won’t be complaining.

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