Friday 9 November 2012 – 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
RFU Championship #9
I completely forgot about Patrick Stewart being in Robin Hood Men in Tights – one of the subtly funniest actors around. But as William Shatner said, don’t leave the bridge of the Enterprise. One day you’re in an #epic fight with the Borg, the next you’re advertising MoneySupermarket.
Anyway, there were a few interesting results in the Championship last weekend, but probably the most eyebrow-raising came on Sunday when Nottingham destroyed Bristol 63-7, moving the archers (there’s one on the badge anyway) into second place in the table.
Hence, for the second successive week, the Falcons are involved in a top-of-the-table match with Nottingham coming north tomorrow night.
Nottingham have 30 points so far, eight fewer than ourselves and three more than Bedford, who now sit in third. One would imagine they would go for promotion too, considering they play at Notts County’s Meadow Lane ground, which I’m looking forward to visiting in March.
Like Bedford last week, we will see a former Falcon tomorrow night as Brent Wilson skippers the visitors. Brent was a very popular player during five years at KP for his drive and energy, and is currently captain of the green and whites. He scored two of his side’s nine tries against Bristol on Sunday.
Wilson is not the only player in Martin Haag’s squad with Premiership experience, with props Michael Holford and Matt Parr both having spent time with Leicester, while the latter is also an ex-Saracen. Winger Rhys Crane has played for Bath at the top level, while Nic Rouse spent a year at Sale as well as a short spell at London Irish before his second spell at Nottingham began last year.
All of Nottingham’s nine tries against Bristol were converted by Japanese international James Arlidge, who incredibly enough was born in New Zealand. He was one of his adopted country’s top players in his homeland’s World Cup last year.
Brothers and three-quarters Jack and Joe Cobden came through the Tigers academy.
Nottingham’s glory days came in the 1980s when Brian Moore became their only British Lion, while among their other internationals was former Falcons manager Rob Andrew.
Our club (or Gosforth, if you prefer), has a history with the outlaws stretching back to the 1950s, although as with many of our opponents this season, we haven’t met Nottingham since the late 1990s.
In the Falcons’ last season at this level, 1996/97, we beat Nottingham twice with an aggregate score of 127-46, including a 53-17 victory at KP on a Sunday (a rarity back then) in March. One Steve Bates scored a hat-trick after coming on as a replacement, while Garath Archer got two tries and Martin Shaw, Dean Ryan and Gary Armstrong also crossed. Rob Andrew’s boot got the rest of the points, 24 hours after he had sat on the bench for England at Twickenham in a Six Nations match.
The Falcons team that day was: Tim Stimpson, Martin Shaw (Andy Blyth), Graham Childs, Va’aiga Tuigamala, Tony Underwood (Steve Bates), Rob Andrew, Gary Armstrong, Matt Long, Ross Nesdale, Paul Van-Zandvliet, Garath Archer, Doddie Weir, Pat Lam, Richard Arnold, Dean Ryan.
Nottingham in Newcastle:
07/11/1959 Club Match W16-9
04/11/1961 Club Match W24-3
09/11/1963 Club Match L12-15
18/12/1971 Club Match W21-6
16/12/1972 Club Match W21-9
20/12/1975 Club Match W9-3
17/12/1977 Club Match W22-6
15/12/1979 Club Match W12-11
20/12/1980 Club Match L8-18
18/12/1982 Club Match D16-16
15/12/1984 Club Match W21-7
03/10/1987 Club Match W9-6
17/02/1990 Club Match L3-16
01/02/1992 Club Match W27-9
10/10/1992 Division 2 W28-6
15/10/1994 Division 2 W27-6
16/09/1995 Division 2 W31-24
16/03/1997 Division 2 W53-17
Luke Fielden returns from injury tomorrow night on the right wing and Jamie Helleur gets a start in the centres as Alex Crockett drops out. The returning James Goode is on the bench with fellow Welshman Warren Fury, who could make a first league appearance for the Falcons.
Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Luke Fielden, 13 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Richard Mayhew, 8 Ally Hogg (c).
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 James Goode, 19 Chris York, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Crockett.
Nottingham hand a first league start to Tom Calladine in the back row, alongside Brent Wilson, after the former had come off the bench in every game so far this season. The other star man Arlidge is in the number 10 shirt.
Nottingham: 15 Andrew Savage, 14 David Jackson, 13 Joe Cobden, 12 Joe Munro, 11 Rhys Crane, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Sean Romans, 1 Matt Parr, 2 Joe Duffey, 3 Michael Holford, 4 Dan Montagu, 5 Nic Rouse, 6 Tom Calladine, 7 Brent Wilson (c), 8 Alex Shaw.
Replacements: 16 Shaun Malton, 17 Matt Shields, 18 Joe Quinn, 19 Rupert Cooper, 20 Finlay Barnham, 21 Rory Lynn, 22 Tim Streather.
Another win will do nicely and restore our lead at the top of the Championship to double figures, though Nottingham will no doubt be more confident of upsetting the odds than most visitors to KP this season.
Also, don’t forget your programme so you can get a free pint at the Tonga game on Tuesday.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)