Wednesday 29 May 2013 – 7.45pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
RFU Championship Final 2nd leg
If the Falcons are to be denied promotion back to the Premiership at the first attempt, then Bedford will have to do something they have never done before – win at Kingston Park by more than nine points.
Since the very first meeting between the two clubs back in March 1967, when the Blues won 0-17 at North Road, our biggest home defeat to the team standing between us and the top league would not be enough to save London Welsh. Bedford’s last win at KP was in September 1995, just weeks after Sir John Hall and Rob Andrew pitched up, 23-30, and in four visits since the Falcons have triumphed each time.
Of course it has not always been simple – there was the epic comeback from 5-23 down to win 34-23 in January 1999, and then Noah Cato’s last-gasp debut try just over two months ago.
But nine months of matches, 22 in the regular season and three in the play-offs around nine in the British & Irish Cup, this is the one everyone has been waiting for ever since London Welsh proved what most people know in their heart of hearts: that primacy of tenure is a load of rubbish.
The second leg of the play-off final sees the Falcons hold a nine-point advantage after winning the first game 9-18 at Goldington Road and therefore an eight-point defeat would be OK for the Falcons, though perhaps not for the blood pressure of anyone involved. A nice early try or two to settle the nerves and kickstart the party would be welcome.
The Falcons must hold a massive psychological advantage, or at least we should if things are tight late on, after four wins against Bedford this season, but as Dean Richards has warned, our visitors might well come up with something new to turn the tide.
Of course it’s not all about promotion tomorrow night. We’re also saying goodbye to a number of players, including James Hudson, Taiasina Tu’ifua and retiree prop Jonny Golding. Jimmy Gopperth will also play his final game in a black shirt following four years, over 100 appearances, almost 1,200 points and two Premiership golden boots, and will go with the thanks of every Falcons fan for being a talisman during that time.
Wor Jimmy starts, while others may also be playing for their futures at KP but some will also playing for their futures as professional players. The only change from the first game is on the bench, where Matt Thompson replaces the also-departing Michael Mayhew. Waisea Luveniyali is again the only loose back among the replacements.
Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Suka Hufanga, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Ryan Shortland, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.
Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Jonny Golding, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 James Hudson, 20 Taiasina Tu’ifua, 21 Rory Lawson, 22 Waisea Luveniyali.
Bedford are missing last week’s starting fly-half Myles Dorrian as he is getting married – he mustn’t have had much confidence in them getting this far – and have made several changes to their starting lineup while James Pritchard will be a danger from the bench:
Bedford: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 James Short, 13 Ollie Dodge, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Jake Sharp, 9 Darryl Veenendaal, 1 Ricky Reeves, 2 Scott Spurling, 3 Dan Seal, 4 Mike Howard, 5 Paul Tupai, 6 Gregor Gillanders, 7 Darren Fox (c), 8 Nick Fenton-Wells.
Replacements: 16 Neil Cochrane, 17 Phil Boulton, 18 Ben Gulliver, 19 Don Barrell, 20 Luke Baldwin, 21 Ian Vass, 22 James Pritchard.
After tomorrow night we have three months to recover our voices before the start of 2013/14, so lets give it one last mighty go and roar the Falcons back into the Premiership. Leave everything we have on the terraces, if there is to be party afterwards then that will take care of itself. Come on!
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