Friday 17 May 2013 – 7.30pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
British & Irish Cup Final
Well, if the Falcons are going to lose one game out of the last three of the season, I suppose that was the one to lose.
It’s disappointing to lose the cup final as indeed it is any game, but we have bigger fish to fry this season and if we get past Bedford into the Premiership then last night will soon be forgotten.
That would be sad though because it was an absorbing game between two committed sides who both wanted to get their hands on silverware, but in the end a couple of mistakes cost the Falcons late in normal time and extra time, allowing Leinster’s reserves to secure the cup on the same night their first team won the Challenge Cup over in Dublin.
It was a good night for rugby, in contrast to today’s weather in Newcastle, and I think the Falcons played their team selection right, putting in some experienced players who needed games and had the chance to play themselves into the team for Thursday, and a few youngsters like Zach Kibirige and debutant Jamie Sole. I thought the latter had a solid game while he was on, certainly didn’t do a lot wrong.
Kibby was a bit quiet perhaps but took his try very well and kept up his record of scoring on every first team appearance.
Other than that, Joel Hodgson had a cracking game and was certainly in the running for man of the match. I don’t think I’ve seen a Falcons fly-half as lively as him in attack, his size seems to be an advantage in that, allowing him to squeeze and slip around defenders. He also made at least four try-saving tackles, two in the space of about ten seconds later in the second half, and for all that can be forgiven his dithering that led to the scrum and match-winning penalty for Leinster.
James Hall also showed why many Geordie fans are sad to see him go to Bristol with a solid game in the scrum and a few good runs.
Rory Lawson was clearly rusty, not starting well with a dropped ball, but got better as the game went on and gave our other scrum-halves a lesson in box kicks. Having said that, I was surprised by how good Chris Pilgrim was when he made his comeback from eight months out with injury.
If Pilgrim can and does play himself to a new contract, I hope he truly has ironed out some of the frustrations I and some other fans have had – looking at the referee too often rather than playing the game, and slow service – as last night his box kicks and passing were far better than I remember. He and Mike Blair might be a decent pair at nine next season.
Some other players did not perform quite so well, but then again I imagine some of these are in the “We need a squad to go up and these are the best we can get” category, and Mr Richards has a plan for his playing staff next season should we get promotion.
There was quite a good crowd last night for what was essentially a reserve game, even though it was officially a first team cup final. The numbers were no doubt boosted by the cheap tickets, or free for little ‘uns, and the hangover from Sunday. That might have led to the crowd being a bit subdued for a lot of the game, but certainly the atmosphere really cranked up in extra time.
That is a novelty that a lot of us probably haven’t seen at a live game before – just a shame we didn’t get penalties!
Right, that’s enough for now I think. No use dwelling on last night really, if we go up then this game will be barely a footnote in our history to add context to the playoff final win. As Paul Varley said in the programme last night, promotion is the absolute priority and in the end all that matters.
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