Saturday 27 April 2013 – 3.00pm
Goldington Road, Bedford
British & Irish Cup semi-final
Well, it wasn’t perfect, but the Falcons responded how they needed to after last week’s shocker at home to Bristol and now we’re in the Bandi Cup Final!
Some of the Falcons Twitterati were not happy with the performance, particularly in the first half when we would have been lucky to have 20% of the possession, but the scoreline read ‘Blues 15-18 Away’ and that is all that matters. Now looking forward to the game against Leinster A in a few weeks’ time.
A win then will be a good boost going into the far more important games against either Bedford or Nottingham, should we overcome Leeds.
I’m certainly hoping for Bedford, it’s a proper rugby ground that I for one will miss in the Premiership, where stadia are often shiny but lacking in character. That slope really is something and in the daylight rather than dusk it’s clear just how big the difference in height is across the pitch.
Presumably the Falcons won the toss as we played uphill in the first 40, so it should not have been a surprise perhaps that Bedford dominated things early doors. The Falcons’ discipline was again off, even if the referee was a bit Irish (casual racist remark of the day out of the way). One example I can give is that players standing up in the scrum were continually ignored or at least not penalised, whereas one scrum that looked very clean (by today’s standards) resulted in a Bedford penalty.
Bedford’s kicker’s radar seemed a bit off and he missed a couple of kicks, while we took our opportunities and Jimmy Gopperth’s penalties put us 0-6 up at the break. That must have been a bit demoralising for Les Bleus.
Jonny Golding’s try early in the second half settled some Geordie nerves but Bedford weren’t lying down, even after the bizarre try by Noah Cato where he caught a 22 drop-out and fought through the Bedford defence to score. I didn’t think Noah had a great game yesterday but he was on the ball in more ways than one when he needed to be.
Jordi Pasqualin was even less impressive, coming off the bench and being carded for a professionnal foul pretty quickly. Mind, he will be as disappointed as anyone at screwing up a rare chance to get on the pitch and doesn’t deserve to be condemned as one or two have done. He isn’t the first Falcons player to get binned for blocking a try-scoring opportunity and certainly won’t be the last.
Things became very nervy when Bedford scored their second try to bring the score back to 15-18, but the missed conversion meant a drop-goal would have only given us a draw (and presumably extra time), not sent the hosts through to the final themselves. It didn’t get that far, to our relief the Falcons won a penalty and after the players put their handbags away, the ball was sent to touch and we were in the final!
I’ve mentioned a couple of players who didn’t have their best days, but despite the team perhaps not performing brilliantly overall there were some good shows. I’m not one of those who believes that Michael Mayhew should start for the All Blacks but he took his chance with open arms with some good defensive work and contributing to a solid scrum alongside the returning Oliver Tomaszczyk. Similarly, James Hudson did little wrong and was clearly driven to perform as he approaches his final month as a Falcons player. Alex Tait went from villain to hero in the space of a few seconds, with a howler of a missed tackle in midfield being followed up by a try-saving tackle on the far left.
Jamie Helleur was quite quiet I thought considering how well he has played since Christmas, but can be forgiven an off day.
Comedy of the day comes from Jimmy Gopperth, who was blinded by the sun as a Bedford penalty approached him by the posts and panicked, shouting for Tom Catterick to cover him. Jimmy’s panicky shout and frantic covering of his eyes was quite funny for those watching even if I can’t remember his exact words (it wouldn’t have been if Bedford had pounced and scored, obviously).
It was a mixture on the pitch but the job was done, and perhaps those who seemed to think the defeat last week was the end of the world should re-assess their thoughts.
The double is still on!
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