Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 33-0 Rotherham Titans


Friday 26 October 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #7

On the way to KP tonight, wor lass told me that this week she had a dream that the Falcons won the league this season but ended up getting relegated!

I suddenly got a huge fear that maybe we forgot to register any players at the start of the season.

But that being doubtful, it now looks like Bedford away a week today is all that stands between us and top spot in the Championship. On paper at least.

Things are rarely that simple in sport. For example, the 33-0 scoreline in our home win over Rotherham last night tells only half the story of the game.

I’m all for showing respect to the opposition, and if we don’t we will fall on our face sooner rather than later, but lets face it Rotherham are not Leicester or Munster.

There is no need to kick and not chase in this (or, in my opinion, any) league, and the sooner the players and management realise that, the sooner we will get crowds back to where we want them.

This, and the missing of some obvious overlap opportunities for our wingers tonight, led to more than one choir member reminiscing of the bad old days of the Master.

At least Zach Kibirige never played in those days, otherwise he’d have sought the nearest defender on his big run tonight. As it was, he scored a good try and is looking a very promising player.

Other than that we can obviously be pleased at a 33-0 win after an iffy show, with little real danger of conceding bar Rotherham’s good spell of possession. Even then our defence was committed and resolute.

The real ale seems to have gone down well, I myself enjoyed a nice half-time pint of Paradise Ale thanks to Monkey’s generosity. Keep that on next time please. Newcastle Exhibition or McEwan’s Best Scotch would go down well too.

It’s a weird day today, all that snow on the ground. It’s reminding me of that game against Exeter up in Gala a few years ago. Another nice rugby club awaits us in Bedford on Saturday.

Blueswatch shows that the Bedfordshire side visit Bristol tomorrow and willing be looking to close the gap again before the #epic Goldington Road clash next weekend.

You’d think the Falcons will have to improve from last night to avoid an uncomfortable afternoon down south.

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


Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Rotherham Titans

Friday 26 October 2012 – 8.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

RFU Championship #7


The Falcons return to league action tomorrow night when Rotherham make a first competitive visit to KP since November 2003, when we defeated the then-Premiership whipping boys by over 40 points.

I personally remember that game because I was back in England for the weekend from Leipzig, and although I spent three of the four nights in Manchester, I obviously had to make sure there was time to take in a home match!

Our last outing against the Yorkshiremen was however a friendly in August 2010. In a double-header, our reserves took on a big and tough Titans side at Cochrane Park before a bad-tempered first team clash at KP, which Alan Tait’s team won 48-12.

Just looking at the team that day, we had Gcobani Bobo, Andy Henderson and Tim Ryan in the starting line-up, all players who either fortunately or unfortunately did not make such a great impact with us. Got to love Bobo’s enthusiasm though, and who could forget THAT tackle on Chris Ashton? (About 43 seconds in).

Anyway. We have a relatively short and sparse history with our northern cousins, having shared a league in only three previous seasons, all of them in the professional era. The Falcons have won all nine meetings though. The Clifton Lane side were our final opponents our last second-tier season, losing 61-13 at KP in May 1997, and they have since spent two seasons in the Premiership, the last being 2003/04. It would have been 2002/03 had they not been barred from promotion the previous year, sparing Leeds.

The last competitive meeting in the North East was that November 2003 game, when the Falcons won 56-10. Tom May, in a prolific season, got his second hat-trick of the term, while Jamie Noon scored twice and hookers Nick Makin and Matt Thompson also got on the scoresheet. If you don’t include Micky Ward, young Thumper is the only player from that 22 still at KP.


Rotherham in NE13:

02/12/1995 Club Match                W29-12

04/05/1997 Division 2                   W61-13

10/09/2000 Premiership               W34-19

09/11/2003 Premiership               W56-10

21/08/2010 Friendly                      W48-12


The Titans currently sit sixth in the Championship, with three wins and a draw giving them 17 points in their opening six matches ahead of, like ourselves, two victories in the opening rounds of the British & Irish Cup. Last weekend they hammered Plymouth 59-26 at home in the cup, avenging a 15-3 defeat on the south coast at the end of September.

They have also lost away to London Scottish in the league this season, though have won at Nottingham. The Titans also defeated Bristol at Clifton Lane in their last league game, 23-16, and drew at home to Bedford last month, so they are a decent team and no doubt the Falcons will respect them.

Interestingly, our visitors have scored twice as many tries so far this season than they had in their first eight matches of 2011/12, crossing 26 times so far and averaging 3.2 tries a game. They also have 249 points in total, compared to 155 a year ago.

Though they do not have many big names in the squad, they do have a big fella in the backs in the shape of 108kg New Zealander Palepoi Nonu, as well as some sizeable props who could well give our front row a tough time tomorrow night. I almost forgot to mention Garry Law, reportedly one of this division’s best kickers.

Difficult game, it will be, is what Deano might tell our lads if he has a dodgy lunch and sprouts pointy ears.


Following his debut try against Cross Keys in our last home match, and an outing for Blaydon at the weekend, Zach Kibirige celebrates his 18th birthday with a Championship debut tomorrow night, starting alongside stars like Jimmy Gopperth, Rory Lawson, Jonny Golding and Ally Hogg. Chris York could also make his first league appearance for the Falcons from the bench, while the glaring absence is James Hudson. Sean Tomes’ beef may be needed against a big opposition however.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Zach Kibirige, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Chris York 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick.


Rotherham have meanwhile made seven changes to the team that hammered Plymouth, bringing in a whole new front row. Tighthead Ross Davies in particular looks to be a bit of a size, at 6’1” and over 18 and a half stone, not that Shane Cahill is a slouch at just 5kg lighter. Two props and a hooker on the bench suggests they are expecting a tough night’s work up front though.

Titans: 15 Fergus Mulchrone, 14 Peter Homan, 13 Eamonn Sheridan, 12 Lee Blackett (c), 11 Mike Doneghan, 10 James McKinney, 9 Jimmy Williams, 1 Shane Cahill, 2 Dan Baines, 3 Ross Davies, 4 Toby Freeman, 5 Dan Sanderson, 6 Nile Dacres, 7 Carl Kirwan, 8 Alex Rieder.

Replacements: 16 Ted Stagg, 17 Jamie Kilbane, 18 GarethDenman, 19 Joe Ellyatt, 20 Garry Law, 21 Joel Gill, 22 Charlie Mulchrone.


The ticket prices are simple, there’s real ale at £2.50 a go (if you like that sort of thing and get your vouchers), and we are going for an eighth bonus point and ninth win in nine games. What’s not to love?

Looking forward to tomorrow night now. Am I forgetting something? Ah yes, forgot to get me ticket! Get that sorted now.


(Follow The South Stand Choir: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Connacht Eagles 3-34 Newcastle Falcons


Friday 19 October 2012 – 7.45pm

Dubarry Park (Buccaneers RFC), Athlone, Ireland

British & Irish Cup Pool 4 #2


Keep ’em coming has to be the message from Falcons fans to our team after an eighth win out of eight last night, and a seventh bonus point.


This six-try victory over Connacht’s reserves in Athlone may not have seen us hit the half-century, as in each of the previous three games, and represent our worst return of points all season bar Pirates away, but the Falcons went over to Ireland yesterday morning to get five points and they are coming back this morning with them.


That obviously puts us in a good position to look to qualify from the group ahead of the double-header against Newport in December and the return meetings with the Eagles and Cross Keys after Christmas.


Cross Keys host Newport at Pandy Park this afternoon, incidentally.


Last night sounds like it was another good night for our forwards in a season when they have outshined the backs, with a penalty try and scores from Oliver Tomaszczyk and yet another by Ally Hogg. Although I doubt a game in this (with all due respect and I bet the travelling fans had a great time) rugby outpost was what the likes of Hogg and Jimmy Gopperth had in mind when they joined us!


They must have known relegation would always be a possibility though.


It’s good that we can still go to these places while in the Championship, and I’m looking forward to Cross Keys in January, but I really see no reason why we can’t have a good old English cup, even for the Championship and lower division teams as happened after the Anglo-Welsh Cup was introduced for the Premiership.


Fair enough, we got a trip to Ireland and having been at the Munster friendly back in 2004 I know it’s a great place, but why not somewhere like Bridgwater, or Otley, or we might even have got a local derby with Tynedale or Blaydon.


Gosforth v Newcastle, what a game that would be! Although it would probably be moved to KP if we were drawn away.


Of all of the things that have changed in rugby since professionalism, I think the loss of such a democratic, inclusive English cup competition like that we won four times is one I dislike the most.


But it’s probably not going to change.


So we now turn back to the Championship for a few weeks, firstly against Rotherham at home on Friday when those who prefer their ale real to brown (managed to get a dog in trendy Shoreditch last night – but then it is trendy), will get their wish of a ‘decent’ pint.


You would imagine we’ll see the majority of last night’s line-up on display on Friday and hopefully we’ll rack up another few tries ahead of the crunch game at Bedford.



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

Match preview: Connacht Eagles v Newcastle Falcons

Friday 19 October 2012 – 7.45pm

Dubarry Park (Buccaneers RFC), Athlone, Ireland

British & Irish Cup Pool 4 #2


For the first time in probably over a century, the Falcons’ first team will take on the official second team of another club (well, province) tomorrow night. This is another example of how things are very different down in the Championship.


You’d think that come Saturday morning we should have 10, or at least nine, points in our British & Irish Cup group after this game against Connacht’s reserves, but we’ll see what happens.


As always a merry band of Geordie supporters are heading to the Connacht-Leinster border, hoping for a repeat of the good time that was had by away fans the last time we went over the Irish Sea in 2007 for a competitive game, when the men in green beat John Fletcher’s Falcons 16-13 in the European Challenge Cup. Tom May scored our try and Jonny Wilkinson kicked eight points.


Lineups from that game, Carl Hayman’s first start, are here – we certainly had a good team back then.


The Eagles lost their first outing in the B&I Cup this season, going down 18-14 at Newport last weekend. They included a few first team players in the squad, including their captain, flanker Eoghan Grace a week after hid 25th birthday, and made it up with academy lads.


And what of our hosts tomorrow? Connacht’s second string will be playing all of their B&I Cup home games this season in Athlone and local supporters could turn out to see several of their own players line up for the province.


The Buccaneers’ website does not reveal a great deal, although Dubarry Park is the home of the Athlone Rugby 7s, which took place for a fourth year in August this year with men’s and women’s senior teams, a men’s junior competition and a mixed tax tournament. It looks a nice little ground, certainly.


The Buccaneers first team play in Division 1B of the national Ulster Bank League and have had two narrow games so far, losing 17-27 at home to Ballynahinch at the end of September before winning away to Brian O’Driscoll’s old team Blackrock College in Dublin 14-23 two weeks ago.


In the season-starting Connacht Senior League, the team finished third of five teams, beating Connemara and Corinthians but losing to finalists Sligo and Galwegians in their final two games.

The Falcons have named a strong side for this game, with the likes of Jimmy Gopperth, Rory Lawson, Jonny Golding and Ally Hogg back. Scott Wilson and Warren Fury could get another opportunity to impress from the bench:


Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Andy Higgins, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.


Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Sean Tomes, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Suka Hufanga.



So, a nice quick one this week. The travelling fans are sure to bring back some good tales from this game, and perhaps the Connacht-Harlequins Heineken Cup game in Galway on Saturday night. Hopefully the team will bring back five points too.



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

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Cross Keys

Saturday 13 October 2012 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

British & Irish Cup Pool 4 #1


The LV= Cup might have seemed unloved, and a waste of time at times (bar March last year of course), but compared to the British & Irish Cup it looks to me like the football Champions League compared to the Europa League.


Until this weekend just gone, the Falcons had not seen fit to confirm the kick-off time for this Saturday’s opening game of the tournament at home to Cross Keys, and anybody wanting to travel to Connacht the following week had to call the Irish club to see where and when we would play their reserves.


The offy fixture list has finally been updated with both games this week. The Cross Keys KO was first mentioned though in an offy story last Saturday and on Facebook on Monday.


I know the Falcons said that a while ago the fixtures in this cup had not been confirmed, but you might expect them to be confirmed more than seven days before.


Then we have the unannounced switch in the Newport home and away games in December.



Anyway, so tomorrow afternoon its Welsh team Cross Keys that come north, just two days short of 12 years since their one previous visit to KP. That was in the 2000/01 European Shield (as was) and the Falcons won the pool match by a massive score of 99-8. Liam Botham scored a hat-trick, while Jamie Noon, Tom May, Michael Stephenson and Epi Taione all crossed twice. Dave Walder, Hall Charlton, Micky Ward and Ross Nesdale were also on the scoresheet, Walder converting 12 of the 15 tries.


Back then mind, they were hardly a great side, winning only one match all season. That was at home to Edinburgh in the Welsh-Scottish League, the predecessor to the current Celtic League.


Unless regionalisation is dropped, then Cross Keys will not return to the very top level of the sport in Wales, but they do sit fourth in the amateur Welsh Premiership after seven games behind Llandovery, Pontypridd and Bedwas. Last week our visitors beat Cardiff at home 20-13 with two tries from lock Danny Hodge and another by replacement Jonathan Lewis.


It was quite a reverse from the same fixture last season, less than six months ago in April, when the capital side left Pandy Park with an 18-42 victory.


Our opponents, from a village of just over 3,000 people in Gwent, are actually last year’s beaten finalists in the B&I Cup. Their conquerors in the final at Musgrave Park in Cork were Munster A, who triumphed 31-12. Cross Keys have a good cup pedigree though as they are the current SWALEC Cup holders, winning their first-ever final against Pontypridd in the Millennium Stadium back in May,



The Falcons have named a very different side to that we have seen in the league so far this season. Of last week’s starters only Alex Tait, Jamie Helleur, Grant Shiells, Matt Thompson, Scott MacLeod and Will Welch keep their places, while youngsters Zach Kibirige and Scott Wilson make first team debuts alongside Welsh international scrum-half Warren Fury, at KP on trial. Suka Hufanga makes a first start of the season and Chris York could debut from the bench:


Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Michael Tait, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Zach Kibirige, 10 Waisea Luveniyali, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Scott Wilson, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua.


Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 James Hall, 18 James Hudson, 19 Chris York, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick.



Cross Keys team: 15 Gareth David, 14 Elliot Jones, 13 Luke Williams, 12 Luke Ford, 11 Nathan Trowbridge, 10 Dean Gunter, 9 Rhys Dyer (c), 1 Anthony Lott, 2 Garry Horrigan, 3 Craig Gould, 4 Danny Hodge, 5 Ollie Hodge, 6 Rhys Peebles, 7 Nic Cudd,  8 Adam Powell.


Replacements: Gerwyn Price, Marc Jones, Jamie Sollis, Sean Higgins, Ryan James, Jonathan Lewis, Dorian Jones.



Hopefully we’ll either see a lot of points or a cracking game tomorrow, though they could both happen of course, and some good performances from players looking to get a start once the league starts again. Wish any luck it might also set us on course for a trophy that, alongside the Championship title, we have a realistic chance of winning.



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

Match reaction: Moseley 13-53 Newcastle Falcons


Saturday 6 October 2012 – 3.00pm
Billesley Common, Birmingham
RFU Championship #6

“I miss the tension of the Premiership,” was my slight moan at half-time.

“It’s like a holiday,” wor lass piped up.

“Aye,” I sighed.

For the last few years watching our Falcons has felt like work at times. More than once I’ve been asked “Are you enjoying it this season?” and more often than not my answer has been “No”.

The other conversation I had today relevant to this point came in the queue for the bar pre-match. “Would you rather be in Reading or Watford today?” Hell no.

Today perhaps reminded us of something that supporters used to the Premiership, such as ourselves, might have forgotten.

We go to rugby first and foremost because we enjoy it.

So maybe I didn’t pay as much attention to the second half as I might have as I chatted with Dancer, then asked F1Lady how her holiday was, while wor lass and a fellow Cumbrian made friends on the grass bank.

Maybe it’s easy to say when we’ve won by 40 points that I enjoyed the day out as much as the game. We were, realistically, never going to lose today, and Burky willing we are well on our way to the top four.

But I think there is something in remembering that rugby isn’t always about the result. It isn’t always about standing in the South Stand with your heart racing and your heart pounding. It isn’t always about going home after another defeat wondering “What on Earth can I write about that that hasn’t been said before?”

Sometimes it’s about meeting your mates in a new city, paying a few quid to get in, drinking a cold beer in a nice bar with friends and then watching a game.

It’s about chewing the fat in the same bar as the opposition fans afterwards. Being able to shake hands with Jon Golding and Jordi Pasqualin without them making you feel like they are above you because you are just a fan.

Like I say, when you’ve watched your team win by 40 points it’s easy to be philosophical. Maybe if I was a Bristol fan, who had seen three seasons in the Championship and after recent results might be wondering if the fourth would be followed by a fifth, I may think differently.

But we are where and who we are, and that’s all I can talk about.

Forgive me the lack of actual match analysis here but as I sit on a train approaching London, something I have done after countless defeats over the past seven years, I needed to get these thoughts off my chest.

A report will be on the unoffy tomorrow.

I thought Wor Joel had a very good game though.

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

Match preview: Moseley v Newcastle Falcons

Saturday 6 October 2012 – 3.00pm

Billesley Common, Birmingham

RFU Championship #6


It’s time to enjoy another benefit of being relegated when the Falcons travel to the Midlands to take on Moseley tomorrow.


I’ve always had a bit of a negative opinion about Birmingham… well, not a negative opinion, but just maybe felt a bit unfavourable about it. I think it’s due to it supposedly being England’s ‘second city’, when that title should clearly (well, I think anyway) belong to Manchester, somewhere I’ve lived before.


Apart from changing trains there (which I did a lot back in the days I used to travel to Somerset regularly), I’ve spent about six hours in Birmingham in my whole life, if that, but nothing particularly bad happened, so maybe I need to think again. I’m sure I will after tomorrow.


This is going to be our first visit to Moseley’s new ground Billesley Common, after they left The Reddings in 2000 and played at the University of Birmingham for several years. We did visit their old home a few times in the later decades of the last century, most recently in October 1996, when Rob Andrew’s side were in destructive mood and won 9-75 thanks to a hat-trick from John Bentley and further tries from Matt Tetlow (two), Tony Underwood, Gary Armstrong, Nick Popplewell, Ross Nesdale, Steve O’Neill and Dean Ryan.


Bentley also scored three in the return game at KP, as did Va’aiga Tuigamala, his first points for the Falcons.


Our most recent meeting with Moseley was our first match of this millennium, at KP in the Tetley’s Bitter Cup 4th round. Tuigamala also got a brace that day, as did Martin Shaw, and Nesdale was on the scoresheet again alongside Jamie Noon in a 41-8 win. Michael Stephenson made his Falcons debut as a replacement and Moseley’s try was scored by former Newcastle Gosforth prop Matt Long.


Falcons at Moseley:

26/02/1977 Club Match                L0-15

26/02/1983 Club Match                W15-9

13/02/1988 John Player Cup R4  L9-33

24/04/1993 Division 2                   L16-19

18/03/1995 Division 2                   L3-6

09/09/1995 Division 2                   L0-9

19/10/1996 Division 2                   W75-9



Moseley are perhaps unique (I haven’t looked into it closely) in rugby union in that their name was once loaned to Olympic silver-medallists – in 1900, the Great Britain team that competed in the Paris Olympics included four players from the club and was known as the Moseley Wanderers (or Mooseley as it was spelled on the official team sheet).


Their glory years came in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1972 and 1979 Moseley were runners-up in the English Cup, before sharing the trophy with Gloucester in 1982 after a draw.


Moseley began the league era in 1987 in the top division, and stayed their until relegation in 1991. They have gone down as far as the third tier and are currently in a fifth successive season in what we call the Championship.



Our hosts have not had a great start to the season, with just two wins from their five games leaving them third-from-bottom, above only Doncaster and Jersey, against whom one of those two victories came. Plymouth and Nottingham have both been successful at Billesley Common this season, but a week ago the Birmingham side pulled off a shock 21-22 win at Bristol thanks to a late penalty from winger Glynn Hughes.


Moseley’s squad does not contain many household names, though Ben Pienaar crossed the Midlands this summer from Leicester, where he spent six years, but the South African-born back-rower found his chances very restricted at Welford Road and made only 29 appearances for the Tigers.


Their coaching team does include two famous former internationals in Dave Hilton, a 42-cap Scotland prop, as player-forwards coach, and head coach Kevin Maggs, who won 70 caps for Ireland.



Will Welch is back to captain our team after injury, and Alex Tait and Jamie Helleur make their first starts of the season. Grant Shiells is rotated in for a bit of time on the pitch but James Hudson has to be content with a place on the bench as Carlo del Fava and Scott MacLeod start together for the first time. Michael Tait could get a rare first team game from the bench, where he sits alongside Jordi Pasqualin, once of our hosts.


Falcons: 15 Jimmy Gopperth, 14 Alex Tait, 13 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Richard Mayhew, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.


Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 James Hall, 18 James Hudson, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Waisea Luveniyali, 22 Michael Tait.



Moseley’s team is as follows: 15 Anthony Carter, 14 Simon Hunt, 13 Greg King, 12 Charlie Hayter, 11 Oliver Thomas, 10 Brad Davies, 9 Sam Brown, 1 Chas Meddick, 2 Sam Wilkes, 3 Craig Voisey, 4 Addison Lockley, 5 Buster Lawrence, 6 Nigel Burrows, 7 Oliver Robinson, 8 Neil Mason. Replacements: 16 Dave Hilton, 17 Adam Caves, 18 Ben Pienaar, 19 Liam Mather, 20 Alex Day, 21 Anders Mogenson, 22 Brad Hunt.

Don’t forget, it’s all-pay-on-the-door at Billesley Common tomorrow, and with real ale knocking around for those who like that kind of drink, this promises to be a very enjoyable afternoon in Birmingham.



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