Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 31-15 Plymouth Albion

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Friday 30 November 2012 – 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
RFU Championship #11

It’s not often I miss kick-off, but last night was a close one after a curry in town. A half-hour delay on the train coming north didn’t help though hopefully there’ll be a bit of a refund off that. Watching the kick-off from outside the south-east corner, I said to the programme-seller there “Why did I buy a ticket, I could watch from here?” Joke of course, and I’d have missed Luke Fielden’s try.

It was a funny game last night, Plymouth were obviously quite strong and played a game that we struggled to cope with for most of the first half. It was very strange to concede an early try, since we haven’t conceded many this season, and then kick a couple of penalties rather than keep going to the line, but I suppose we can blame the conditions for that.

That said, I don’t think it was nearly as cold at KP as I expected.

The second half was far better as the Falcons ran the ball far more and, amazingly, made a lot of territory when they did so. It’s not always this early in the season when we learn that this is the most effective way to play so hopefully it will continue.

Fielden’s try was beautiful, probably the best I’ve seen this season, an excellent move from left to right finished off well. Jamie Helleur’s was also the type I like to see, picking a good position power taking him through the defence to the line.

The table shows us a huge 17 points ahead of Nottingham and Bedford, though they both have a game in hand. It’s been a strange season so far though. We have obviously won every league game, the two cup ones, and friendlies against Tonga and Edinburgh. But in the league the performances seem to be stuttering from when we took apart Bristol back in September and hammered Leeds and Moseley soon after.

I guess it may be becoming harder to play ‘rugby’ as the pitches get wet (like the one last night) and the air gets colder, but surely we should be trying to do it still for when we are hopefully in the Premiership in a year’s time? Yes we may make little mistakes but they are far less likely to be punished in the Championship so this is the time to get things moving.

I imagine too that Dean Richards takes a kind-of Rupert Murdoch line – “I won’t fire you if it doesn’t work, I will fire you if you do the wrong thing.” Maybe not, I don’t know. I thought this after Tane Tu’ipulotu’s mis-pass to Andrew Higgins at Bristol – it didn’t come off, but passing can be practiced, making the right decision is something players can only learn with time and that pass was the right thing to do.

So fair enough we might make mistakes if we play a more expansive game, but it has historically been shown to be the most effective way for the Falcons to play. Even with the odd error we should still be good enough to win games in this league. I suppose that might conflict slightly though with my insistence that we have to show every opponent the appropriate respect to stop us falling on our faces.

It’s a tricky one. But I’m not the one who has to make these decisions.

Still, after 13 competitive games we have never really looked like losing so that’s a good sign and Richards has stressed that he is “in the business of winning”. That’s good to hear after times when results seemed secondary to putting on a show, and we went down to Leicester with half of a reserve team. Then the past few years when half the time watching the team just wasn’t enjoyable.

Before January this year we’d probably have loved to be winning and just moaning that we aren’t playing well enough. It’s obviously not going to last because we are either going to lose in the play-offs or get promoted, and in the Premiership things won’t be quite so simple.

Still, that’s for another day. The league table looks very nice this morning with the Falcons 17 points clear, so we might just want to enjoy that for now.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

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