Sunday 12 May 2013 – 1.15pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
RFU Championship semi-final 2nd leg
Wow, what a game! Low on technical quality perhaps but not low on tension and excitement and that’s good enough for me. After all the doom and gloom of last week following Monday’s debacle at Headingley, we are now potentially 160 minutes away from the Premiership!
The Falcons pulled out their best performance for weeks when it mattered most and though Leeds attacked at the end, we were good value for the win that was by more than the required six-point margin. Maybe it didn’t have to be so nervy but it just made the victory so much sweeter and relieving at the final whistle.
Now it’s off to Bedford again next week for the first leg of the final, after hopefully winning the British & Irish Cup Final this Friday.
Things never go easy do they? We managed to take relegation down to the wire, we’ve won two horrifically exciting cup finals, and now it needed five penalties and some last-gasp defending to keep the dream of a quick return to the Premiership alive. I suppose, as I say, it just makes it more enjoyable.
Someone actually said to me before the game that he hadn’t enjoyed this season because for a lot of the time we’ve been winning, if not easily, then at least comfortably. It was certainly not like that yesterday and probably the finals won’t be either, and then next season we’ll want to relax again when we’re screaming while two points down with a minute to go yet again.
In the end it was probably no surprise that there were several changes to the team from the first leg, though Suka Hufanga was certainly a shock. I think he played far better than Tulip did a week ago though. Alex Tait had one of his best games for the Falcons I thought, Leeds had clearly identified Chip as a weakness under the high ball but he fielded everything he had to and they eventually gave up. Tait also contributed in attack with some charges from the back, even if the rest of the team didn’t always seem quite so enthusiastic.
It’s fair to say I haven’t been Warren Fury’s biggest fan this season, but yesterday apart from a kick straight to touch in the first half and giving Leeds the ball back in the dying minutes I thought he looked a lot sharper and made better decisions than at Headingley. I’d still put Lawson back in when he’s fit mind.
The forwards seemed to do better with Grant Shiells in there and the added beef of Matt Thompson and Carlo del Fava. Overall, the team appeared far more aggressive and up for the game, compared to last Monday when they looked like they expected to coast through. Perhaps after so many months the complacency that many believe was almost our downfall and the team will give Bedford the respect they deserve in the final.
Can’t wait for that one, Goldington Road is a cracking little ground and there will be a big crowd, hopefully plenty of away fans despite the unfortunate scheduling.
But for now, whatever happens in the play-off finals, at least Friday should be a good night and hopefully some silverware.
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