Friday 29 March 2013 – 5.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
RFU Championship #20
“Tell me ma, me ma, we’ll not be home for tea, we’re going to Jersey” we sang at Wasps just over 11 months ago. It was a cracking trip over to the Channel Islands, back in November.
I doubt when Jersey were going for promotion to the Championship this time last year, their fans were singing about going to Newcastle (if we were to go down), but hopefully plenty will be coming over for the return game tomorrow and they will experience something near the hospitality shown to the Falcons and us fans over in St Peter.
The somewhat-odd early evening kick-off time will give them time time to sample the Geordie nightlife on a Friday night as well as Saturday night, though I’m not sure where they’ll find any Liberation Ale. Probably somewhere, as for a ‘real’ ale it’s quite a nice pint.
A win tomorrow will bring the Falcons to a nice round 20 wins in the league this season, and 30 including friendlies. It will keep us on course for 100 points, for what that’s worth. Jersey will also be looking for points to haul themselves away from the relegation zone.
The islanders are 11th on 26 points, seven ahead of Doncasster who have a game in hand, and so may need some return from their final three games to avoid an immediate return to National League One.
This game will represent Jersey’s first visit to Kingston Park, but certainly not their first to the North East, our visitors having shared a division with Blaydon and Tynedale last season. Back in late October 2011, Jersey beat Blaydon 6-12 away and later in the season returned from Corbridge with a mighty 0-64 victory!
Quite a contrasting weekend for top North East rugby that was, considering just 24 hours earlier the Falcons had had a tense victory over Sale at KP. Not sure how Blaydon did.
Anyway, back to this season and Jersey have recovered from a difficult start to life in the Championship – with six successive defeats yielding just one point for scoring four tries at Rotherham before a couple of positive results in the British & Irish & Jersey Cup – to give themselves a fighting chance of seeing London Welsh, Sale or London Irish next year (or ourselves, hopefully not).
Jersey’s game against Bristol last weekend beat the weather near the island’s airport and the home side very nearly pulled off a stunning late victory, but while Jersey were convinced a try had been scored the referee gave ‘held-up’ and the south-westerners had hung on for a 23-29 win to assist in their hunt for a play-off place.
That followed another bonus-point defeat in a rearranged match at home to Nottingham, who left the Channel win a 13-20 victory.
If you thought Falcons fans travel long distances, at least they tend to be over land – even Jersey’s local derby against Guernsey in the Siam Cup (not the Guam Cup, apparently) is over water.
Their previous away match was the closest Jersey will get to a local derby in this league, at Plymouth on the south coast. Jersey took four points home, winning 15-19, though a week earlier they were beaten 41-33 at London Scottish.
That Plymouth win was Jersey’s long-awaited first away success in the Championship, though they beat Leeds at York RUFC in the B&I Cup back in October. As far as I can tell, their final group game away to Pontypridd in January was postponed but never played… ah, it’s being played a week tomorrow. Presumably neither team can reach the quarter-finals, of course scheduled for next weekend.
Over at St Peter in November the Falcons were given a stern test by Jersey in difficult weather conditions, indeed I believe Matt Thompson recently said it was one of the hardest games he’s had this season. Jersey went ahead with a penalty before Jimmy Gopperth scored a close-range try.
Ryan Shortland, James Hall and Alex Tait also scored to give the Falcons a bonus point and a make it a perfect ten wins in the league at the start of the season.
There are plenty of changes to the Falcons’ team tomorrow. Calls from some fans for Joel Hodgson to start in place of Jimmy Gopperth. Alex Crockett starts in the centres alongside home debutante Adam Powell. In the forwards, Sean Tomes and James Goode are the second row pairing in front of Ollie Stedman and Grant Shiells and Kieran Brookes rekindle their partnership that did so well on an unforgettable night in Stockport three years ago.
Interestingly, there are only two backs on the bench, although since one is Jordi Pasqualin, there is an argument that we only really have one there.
Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Alex Crockett, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 James Goode, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ollie Stedman.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 James Hall, 18 Jonny Golding, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Jimmy Gopperth, 22 Ally Hogg.
Ben Harvey has named the following Jersey side. I had to take a second glance at the name of the hooker.
Jersey: 1 Richard Barrington, 2 Elvis Taione, 3 Jon Brennan, 4 Rob Anderson, 5 Dave Markham, 6 Charlie Walker-Blair, 7 Joe Buckle, 8 Fred Silcock, 9 Dave McCormack (c), 10 Michael Le Bourgeois, 11 Ed Dawson, 12 Mark Foster, 13 Mark McCrea, 14 James Copsey, 15 Max Stelling.
Replacements: Sean McCarthy, Dave Felton, James Gethings, Talite Vaioleti, Kingsley Lang, Donovan Sanders, Dai Bishop.
Don’t forget the early kick-off! And if you’re wondering what is interesting about the photo at the top (bar the fact that it’s Easter), they are apparently Jersey egg cups.
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