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.
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