Saturday 20 April 2013 – 3.00pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
RFU Championship #22
Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen. We thought yesterday would be the completion of a 100% win record in the regular season, a century of points, and onwards to the playoffs.
Bristol spoiled the party though and I don’t expect anybody can deny that they deserved their win.
Our players’ minds seemed to be elsewhere, why I don’t know but if it was complacency (against a good team looking for a playoff place) then hopefully any belief that we have already won promotion has been erased.
There were very few players who earned their money yesterday. Adam Powell was probably the best of a bad lot, Alex Tait and Mark Wilson put themselves about and Jonny Golding had a solid return to the side.
Tom Catterick looked a bit out of sorts but hopefully that was a just a blip in an otherwise excellent season. The widespread criticism of Warren Fury shows that perhaps I do understand a little of scrum-half play since my opinions on our other 9s seem not to be too popular.
If Rory Lawson can’t play at Bedford, I hope Deano will finally give Jordi a game. If he has a mare then fair enough but give the lad a chance when others have had more than they deserve.
I was surprised to see James Fitzpatrick in the starting lineup and though he did make some metres with the ball actually in hand, he remains prone to butter fingers and a very high tackle.
Centre is a concerning position. Powell and Jamie Helleur will presumably pick themselves but after that only the still-very inexperienced Michael Tait has performed in that position this season. We’ll see.
The referee was extremely poor yesterday, missing forward passes by Bristol and a few drops by us as wel as high tackles from both teams – indeed his whole understanding of knock-ons seemed bizarre.
Then there was Alex Tait’s holding on in the dying minutes. Barring Stade’s early lineout in Paris in 2005, I think that might be the worst decision I’ve seen by a referee in almost 18 years of watching rugby.
But we can’t blame the referee when our penalty count was disgracefully high, we defended too high for Bristol’s try and left Fitzy exposed to pace, and often wasted good possession.
The positive we can take though is that while the Falcons were very poor yesterday and Bristol were far better, we only lost by five points. Remember this was our first competitive defeat for a few hours short of a year.
Bedford threw everything at us home and away and Nottingham did the same at Meadow Lane, but still couldn’t beat us. In our four home games against Leeds and Nottingham this season we have scored over 200 points.
It’s not time to panic just yet.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)