Friday 5 April 2013 – 8.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
British & Irish Cup Quarter-final
The British & Irish Cup knockout stages begin tomorrow night and the Falcons face the third of what could be five meetings with Nottingham this season.
The Archers are our closest challengers in the Championship and will no doubt fancy their chances of reaching the playoff final.
This quarter-final comes just two weeks after we visited Meadow Lane and completed a regular season league double over Nottingham. That certainly was not easy, the Outlaws scoring two tries to cancel out Tom Catterick’s opener before Jimmy Gopperth and Joel Hodgson’s boot stole an away win.
In between times, Nottingham visited Doncaster on Good Friday as we were entertaining Jersey, and secured their place in the top four with a hard-fought 21-27 victory. Andy Savage and Alex Forsyth were the Midlanders’ try-scorers.
Nottingham qualified from their B&I Cup pool with despite opening with two defeats, away to Llandovery and at home to Doncaster. However they recovered to hammer Melrose 54-24 at home in December before a 20-32 return win in the Borders.
Following the turn of the year, Nottingham got their first victory at Castle Park this year, shading a tight game 14-16, and then sent Llandovery home from Meadow Lane with nothing to top Pool 8.
Both the Archers and their Welsh opponents finished on 20 points but Nottingham went through due to a better record in the games between the two sides.
This year’s B&I Cup is the fourth installment of this much-criticised and, to many, poorly-organised competition and Nottingham have played in all three previous years.
Last season, four wins out of four (against teams in another pool, as in the Anglo-Welsh Cup) saw Nottingham finish second in their group and lose 33-3 to Cornish Pirates in the last eight.
In 2010/11, Nottingham finished fourth in a six-team pool as wins at Bristol and Esher were cancelled out by defeats at home to Munster A, Melrose and at Llanelli.
A similar format had been adopted in the B&I Cup’s first season 2009/10, and though Nottingham finished third in pool B this was not enough to make the final stages. Following a 0-5 win at Heriot’s FP and a home victory over Neath, losses at Munster A and at home to Bristol around a thrashing of Coventry at Meadow Lane led to the Midlanders exiting at the pool round.
Writing before the team has been named, I will be interested to see the side Dean Richards puts out this week after making several changes for Jersey, given that this is a cup game but one we’ll want to win for many reasons, including the obvious one that it’s a game to be won.
Well, some big guns are back in the shape of Jimmy Gopperth, Jamie Helleur, Jonny Golding, Ally Hogg and Scott MacLeod, and the very big gun of Taiasina Tu’ifua who is no longer suspended. James Hall gets a rare start and in Will Welch’s absence, Hogg is captain. Scott Wilson and Alex Tait are on the bench.
Falcons: 15 Tom Catterick, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Jonny Golding, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 James Hall, 4 Sean Tomes, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 7 Mark Wilson, 8 Ally Hogg (c).
Replacements: 16 Michael Mayhew, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Richard Mayhew, 19 Ollie Stedman, 20 Jordi Pasqualin, 21 Joel Hodgson, 22 Alex Tait
Nottingham are missing their own captain Brent Wilson, who won’t be making a second return to KP this season:
Nottingham: 15 James Stokes, 14 Jack Bradford, 13 Joe Cobden, 12 Andy Forsyth, 11 Ryan Hough, 10 Rory Lynn, 9 Finlay Barnham, 1 Jonny Harris, 2 Shaun Malton, 3 Ryan Bower, 4 Joe Quinn, 5 Tom Price, 6 Phil Eggleshaw, 7 Tom Calladine, 8 Alex Shaw.
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 Matt Parr, 18 Matt Shields, 19 Dan Montagu, 20 Rupert Cooper, 21 Sean Romans, 22 Joe Munro.
What happens in the semi-finals and final of the B&I Cup is anyone’s guess, the way the rules have been chopped and changed so far. But lets just get there and let the unions worry about that.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)