Sunday 10 February 2013 – 12.00pm
Cross Green, Otley, Leeds
RFU Championship #14
The Falcons get back into league action on Sunday with a trip to Leeds – well, Otley to the north of the city that many people in the south seem to believe England stops at.
The Cardigans have moved the game to Otley, and several others, following some controversial pitch problems in a game against Plymouth earlier in the winter. Uncontested scrums were needed after less than a quarter of that match and with Leeds winning, Albion were awarded a replay. The home side were also successful in the repeat game at West Park on Sunday.
That win took Leeds back into fourth place in the table where they sit with 39 points, six behind Bedford but two ahead of Bristol after 14 games. Cornish Pirates, four points behind the former-Tykes, still have their visit to KP in hand.
When the “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” side visited KP earlier in the season they were put to the sword 53-10 by the Falcons, for whom Jimmy Gopperth (two), Luke Fielden, Jonny Golding, Rob Vickers and James Hudson scored tries alongside our new friend Penalty Try. Steve McColl crossed for Leeds’ only five-pointer.
There have been many players to wear the jerseys of both of England’s northernmost professional clubs down the years, including Jon Dunbar, who moved from KP to Headingley in 2004, and Tom Biggs, currently starring for Bath and England A after a tricky one season in our colours in 2009-10. Michael Stephenson and Warren Fury were in the home team the last time we visited Headingley in 2011.
Fred Burdon is the latest former Falcon at Leeds, while they have Joe Graham on loan (so he won’t play on Sunday) and also the Prince himself, our former academy graduate Rory Clegg who has joined temporarily from Harlequins, though his parent club have recalled him this weekend.
The Falcons have a good record away to Leeds, losing only one competitive game in Yorkshire since the merger of Roundhay and Headingley. That came on a dour Good Friday in 2008, however our last visit in 2011 was far more satisfying.
In front of the live TV cameras on a dark Sunday evening, Jeremy Manning and Ally Hogg scored tries too add to four Jimmy Gopperth penalties as the Falcons put the Cardigans to the sword 5-22. Manning in particular will want to forget the return game at KP a few weeks after that.
Falcons away to Leeds:
17/10/1992 Club Match W37-26
14/08/2000 Friendly W28-14
20/01/2002 Cup QF W41-24
10/02/2002 Premiership W19-9
07/02/2003 Premiership W17-12
28/03/2004 Premiership D30-30
27/12/2004 Premiership W15-11
02/12/2005 Cup Group D18-18
27/12/2005 Premiership W13-10
21/03/2008 Premiership L15-16
17/08/2008 Friendly L21-25
06/09/2009 Premiership D9-9
27/02/2011 Premiership W22-5
The Otley club itself, which has played at Cross Green since 1921, has an interesting history. Founded in 1865, it broke away from the RFU 30 years later to join Northern Union (later Rugby League) but found its way back to the light in 1908. In the 2000s they were regular members of this division, hosting Dean Richards and Harlequins in 2005/06.
Two recent relegations mean Otley currently play in National League Two North, the fourth level of the game. Last Saturday they were beaten 21-26 at home by Hull.
But on Sunday the Falcons and Cardies will be treading on the same ground on which the North of England beat New Zealand in 1979 and Australia in 1988. The USA played Italy at Otley in the 1991 World Cup too.
Not that our club is a stranger to Otley. We first met the Yorkshiremen back in 1924, the visiting Gosforth winning 9-3 in north Leeds, though Otley got revenge 0-3 at the County Ground the following season. Our clubs’ most recent meeting was in October 1985 at Cross Green, Otley winning 13-12.
We were regular opponents in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, and the record at Cross Green stands at ten wins, a draw and three defeats at Otley for the Falcons, or Gosforth as was.
Perhaps a fact not too many Falcons fans will know: Nigel Melville and Danny Care came through Otley’s junior system.
An international opponent of Care’s will start for us at scrum-half on Sunday, with Rory Lawson back in the team. The only other starting change from Cross Keys is Taiasina Tu’ifua at number eight for Ollie Stedman, though Ally Hogg, Suka Hufanga and James Goode come onto the bench.
Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Andrew Higgins, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Rory Lawson, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 James Hudson, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Taiasina Tu’ifua.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 James Goode, 19 Ally Hogg, 20 Warren Fury, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Suka Hufanga.
Leeds team: 15 Stevie McColl, 14 Christian Georgiou, 13 Oli Goss, 12 Fred Burdon, 11 David Doherty, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Craig Hampson, 1 Ben Harris, 2 Phil Nilsen,
3 Damien Tussac, 4 Calum Green, 5 Mike Myerscough, 6 Rob Baldwin, 7 Jacob Rowan (c), 8 Ryan Burrows.
Replacements: 16 Scott Freer, 17 Lee Imiolek, 18 James Currie, 19 Matt Smith, 20 Dominic Moon, 21 Ollie Frost, 22 Pete Lucock.
I still think it’s farcical that this game has had to be moved away from Headingley, but Cross Green is a new ground to go to and I expect it will match up to similar ones we have been lucky enough to see so far this season like Jersey, Bedford and Cross Keys. Looking forward to it.
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