Friday 1 February 2013 – 7.00pm
Pandy Park, Crosskeys
British & Irish Cup Pool 4 #6
The Falcons and Cross Keys will make a second attempt at playing their final pool match in the British & Irish Cup tomorrow night, following the half-foot of snow (at least) that covered much of south-eastern Wales two weeks ago causing a postponement from the o then riginal date.
Our cup campaign has so far seen the extremes of a half-century at home to Cross Keys and almost a century against Newport, and horror shows against the latter and Connacht Eagles.
We need just a win (or less, not sure how many points exactly and still haven’t looked into it) to be sure of a home quarter-final in April having struggled but eventually qualified for a second time against Ireland’s fourth province’s second team at KP last week.
Unfortunately since other games will not be played for another couple of weeks, it will be a while before we know the identity of our quarter-final opponents.
Many Falcons fans will not be able to hear the name Cross Keys RFC without thinking of one of our more unusual games of the professional era. It came 12 years ago in January 2001, in the final round of games in the European Shield (the second of the Challenge Cup’s titles, I believe).
On the Sunday of the game, Pandy Park was found to be waterlogged, and to prevent a delay, an alternative pitch was used, specifically a park pitch at a local college. No changing rooms, no seats for the fans huddled around the pitch, though some had the vantage point of a bandstand, it was sport at its most weird and wonderful.
As I found out when visiting Cross Keys last weekend (there was a LOT of snow), the rugby pitch backs onto a football pitch, presumably no football was played during this game I’m talking about.
The Falcons won the game 25-11 in front of an official crowd (probably a good word to describe the viewing mass) of 600. Internationals like Va’aiga Tuigamala, Gary Armstong, Stuart Grimes and Marius Hurter probably thought this kind of thing was in the past for them, at least while they were playing at the top level.
Armstrong was the Falcons’ only try-scorer, his crossing being converted by Dave Walder, who also slotted six penalties.
Cross Keys have been strong at home this season – from ten home games in the Welsh Premiership, only Pontypridd and Bedwas have left with a win, although Newport were triumphant away to their compatriots in this cup. The two Principality sides drew their return at Rodney Parade 27-27 three weeks ago.
That was our hosts’ last game, as they had a scheduled weekend off while our match against the Pirates was snowed off.
Jimmy Gopperth is in the team for the first time in 2013 after recovering from injury, and new signing Ollie Stedman starts too. Tom Catterick is at full-back despite having an apparent shocker against Connacht, James Fitzpatrick has not been completely banished and is on the bench alongside Joel Hodgson and James Hall, who has returned from suspension.
Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Andy Higgins, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 James Hudson, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ollie Stedman.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Richard Mayhew, 19 Chris York, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 James Fitzpatrick
I’m really looking forward to this game, in Cross Keys a week past Sunday everyone there was really friendly, from the bar staff at the club, the captain and coach who we chatted to, and everyone else who was around, to the barman at the nearby hotel. I’ll be paying him back by enjoying some more of his hospitality tomorrow night – can’t argue with £22.50 a night!
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