Sunday 23 December 2012 – 3.15pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
RFU Championship #12
The Falcons failed to give a crowd of over 5,000 at Kingston Park a pre-Christmas cracker today, labouring to a three-point win over London Scottish and almost shooting themselves in the foot.
12 wins out of 12 league games, 16 out of 16 in all competitions and friendly wins over Edinburgh and Tonga should have sent us into the New Year on a high but many home fans left KP dissatisfied this afternoon. We should have given the players a rousing post-match cheer to end 2012, but the atmosphere was flat.
The game plan appeared to be to ignore the massive wind that looked likely to snap at least one of the goalposts in front of the North Stand and give most penalties to Joel Hodgson to kick over. Joel’s boot erred on a number of occasions in the Chicago-like conditions, at did that of the Scottish kicker, but still we persevered.
I can only remember one real chance for us to score a try, a huge scrum that rumbled towards the line but inches out Taiasina Tu’ifua picked up the ball and was tackled.
Scottish defended well, give them credit but they also offered little in terms of try-scoring chances.
I have no doubt that we could have had a lot more points had we played a more intelligent game plan. We might have been undone when late Scottish were awarded a penalty around our 22 with the Falcons’ lead at just three points, but after conversing with his touch judge the referee brought the play back into the middle of the pitch.
I kept switching between thinking the Falcons were showing Scottish too much respect (something I think they have been guilty of in other home Championship games) and thinking we were being complacent, carrying on with a struggling strategy and assuming we were in no danger of ever losing.
Like the Worcester and Saracens games last season, we got a relatively big crowd today but disappointed them.
Maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Maybe today we had the right plan after all and had we ran more and pressured Scottish’s line more, we would have lost. The mood among fans I spoke to post-match and on the internet suggests otherwise though.
Not everything was bad though. Young Joel had a very good game I thought, and was a deserved man of the match. Ryan Shortland looked one of our more dangerous player, and penalty decisions aside (if indeed he was making them, as it was mentioned that he was looking at the bench), James Hudson was good.
The PA seems to be working better too. Oh, and 15 minutes after the final whistle the hot water was still on in the South Stand!
This style of play doesn’t really fit in with the “entertaining rugby” promise in the Falcons’ new values and vision strategy, as outlined in the programme today. I feel this is a positive step however, outlining the culture that the management want to implement and drive professionalism and a responsible, winning attitude. It is something we have not always had in the past I feel.
Anyway, Merry Christmas rugby fans of all colours, thanks for reading and see you Falcons lot at Doncaster on New Year’s Day! In the end, I’ll personally put today down as a one-off and say that we’ll sort everything out and win promotion next year.
Right, off to Newcastle’s favourite falconry-named pub for a post-match tipple.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)