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.
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