Match reaction: Newcastle Falcons 16-22 Gloucester Rugby

BVWEJO7CYAICIMH

Sunday 29 September 2013 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #4

 

Today’s defeat yielded a bonus point for the Falcons, but other results mean we drop to eleventh in the table, four points ahead of next week’s opponents Worcester.

 

Dean Richards will surely have targeted today’s home clash with Gloucester as a must-win, making the visit to Sixways on Saturday doubly important now. A win would take the gap over the Warriors to up to nine points, but defeat makes the relegation battle a little hotter.

 

Obviously we got off to the best possible start this afternoon with Tom Catterick scoring our first try of the season, and a 10-0 lead was just reward for the Falcons whose forwards had their Gloucester counterparts on toast for most of the game.

 

The away backs always looked dangerous though, particularly the lightning wingers James Simpson-Daniel and Jonny May, and it is probably no surprise that we were outscored on tries. The forwards were given responsibility at the death for getting a potentially-winning try but were unable to.

 

The referee will take some stick for ending the game with a decision of held-up, but fans closer than me agreed with the decision and you have to question why several Falcons players got excited and piled in when being patient and calm had given us several attacking phases. Keep going and eventually the try will come – there’s no rush.

 

Another bad decision that will haunt the Falcons was to give Tom Catterick a shot at goal with ten minutes left rather than go for the corner, at three points down. It was a heck of a long way out and we were starting to get back into the game after two dodgy middle quarters, so why not go for the corner? Mind, if he’d scored and we had gone on to get a draw or even a win, nobody would have complained.

 

Catterick had a solid, if not particularly spectacular, game I thought. Adam Powell was given man of the match but I thought Alex Tait had another blinder at full-back, and James Fitzpatrick did little wrong. Mike Blair is showing signs of the speed and cleverness we have so long lacked at scrum-half.

 

Dominic Barrow and Ally Hogg had huge games up front and Oliver Tomaszczyk has definitely become more mobile over the summer. Franck Montanella is a top scrummager and Matt Thompson really put his opposite number under pressure in the tight.

 

Ultimately, our inability to get out of our 22 with some of the best backs around bearing down, and a lack of execution in the final quarter, let us down I believe – lets not forget that Freddie Burns missed a few kicks at goal so Gloucester could have scored more.

 

Overall, it wasn’t a disastrous result, and we have one more point from our first four games than we gained from the equivalent fixtures in 2011/12. We are improving with every game, however the key is to turn performances into victories, starting at Sixways on Saturday.

 

As I contemplate a two-hour drive home, and whether or not I have enough fuel to get to the (relatively) cheap garage near Carlisle I saw on the way over yesterday, I’m not hugely downheartened.

 

Could really do with a beer though!

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Advertisements

Match preview: Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester Rugby

crown_liquid_gloss

Sunday 29 September 2013 – 3.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva Premiership #4

 

After two weeks on the road, it’s home sweet home for the Falcons on Sunday as Gloucester make the long trip to KP.

 

The Cherry ‘n’ Whites have not won in the North East in the league since Christmas 2007, a winless run of four matches. Their previous visit to KP was in December 2011, when James Fitzpatrick and Jordi Pasqualin were the Falcons’ try-scorers in a tense 26-25 win, only our second in the Premiership so far that season. Jimmy Gopperth converted both and scored four penalties for a home side captained by James Hudson, who moved to Kingsholm in the summer. Among the Gloucester scorers was Scott Lawson, now with the Falcons of course.

 

Gloucester have this week announced a profit for the third consecutive year, but will be less than happy with their start to the season on the pitch. They sit ninth with five points, just one above ourselves, and have the worst defence in the Premiership. Only Worcester have conceded as many tries, ten, in the opening three rounds.

 

The fixture list gave Nigel Davies’ side an opening game at home to Sale, but while the Shed faithful might have expected a routine victory, Joe Ford’s drop-goal sealed a 16-22 away win after tries from Mark Cueto and Andy Forsyth. Gloucester, for whom Henry Trinder was the only try-scorer, had to be content with a bonus point.

 

Gloucester then made a visit to Saracens and were sent home with their tails between their legs by a clinical home side, who triumphed 44-12 at Allianz Park. Just on Saturday however, the Tractor Boys secured a first win of the season in controversial fashion at home to Northampton. The 26-24 win was achieved with a last-gasp penalty by Billy Twelvetrees, and after the game there were suggestions that referee Martin Fox had not been altogether fair to the Saints. I have three comments to make on that, having not seen the game:

a)    If Fox had been biased towards Gloucester, how come the scoreline was so tight? Why did he not find a reason to disallow any of Northampton’s three tries?

b)   A biased referee would, by human nature, be very nervous about getting caught, and therefore is unlikely to make a blatantly incorrect call at such a high-profile time of the match.

c)    Northampton had 80 minutes to build up a lead of more than three points, but failed to do so.

 

Referees make bad decisions, though far less often than they make good ones, but they are not biased and if we believe that they are, then we might as well pack up and go home.

 

James Hudson has yet to make his league debut for Gloucester, with captain Tom Savage having been partnered by Tongan international Lua Lokotui or Elliott Stooke of England U20s in the league games so far. Players with a foot in both camps have been relatively rare over the years, though prop Rupert Harden spent time in the Falcons’ academy before establishing himself at Kingsholm in 2011/12.

 

Another summer signing was Matt Kvesic from Worcester, an England star of the future who earned his first caps in Argentina in the summer. Kvesic is joined in the back row by Ben Morgan, already an established member of Stuart Lancaster’s squad.

 

It is in the backs however that Gloucester really excel with a strong blend of youth and experience. Freddie Burns has heaved himself up the England pecking order and is the first choice ten for Nigel Davies at his club, and came through the club’s academy along with Henry Trinder, Jonny May and Charlie Sharples. These players have benefitted from the experience of England World Cup winner Mike Tindall, who made the switch from arch-enemies Bath in 2006, and former 51-cap All Black Jimmy Cowan, now in his second season at Kingsholm.

 

Twelvetrees can often be found pulling the strings in the Gloucester midfield following an acrimonious transfer from Leicester last summer.

 

As if you needed reminding, our last meeting with Gloucester was the Miracle of Kingsholm in April 2012, which was almost worth getting relegated for.  Our record against Gloucester away is quite poor but at home it is not too bad at all compared to our engagements with some Premiership sides, stretching back to a controversial cup win in 1977 that saw the referee attacked afterwards.

 

Gloucester in Newcastle:

12/03/1977             North Road                Cup QF           W3-0

10/02/1990             Gateshead                  Cup R4           L15-26

28/11/1992             Kingston Park            Cup R3           W13-10

18/09/1993             Kingston Park            Division 1       D12-12

14/12/1997             Kingston Park            Premiership 1W37-27

25/04/1999             Kingston Park            Premiership 1W39-15

30/04/2000             Kingston Park            Premiership 1W36-28

06/09/2000             Kingston Park            Premiership   L18-19

18/11/2001             Kingston Park            Premiership   W18-16

15/09/2002             Kingston Park            Premiership   L19-22

05/10/2003             Kingston Park            Premiership   W42-22

27/02/2005             Kingston Park            Premiership   D27-27

19/02/2006             Kingston Park            Premiership   L9-13

13/04/2007             Kingston Park            Premiership   W19-12

23/12/2007             Kingston Park            Premiership   L13-20

02/11/2008             Kingston Park            Cup                 L10-11

11/01/2009             Kingston Park            Premiership   W10-7

31/03/2010             Kingston Park            Premiership   W25-13

21/11/2010             Kingston Park            Premiership   W12-6

02/12/2011             Kingston Park            Premiership   W26-25

 

 

Ally Hogg and Mike Blair are back for the Falcons, with the other changes to the starting line-up from Leicester being Matt Thompson and Oliver Tomaszczyk coming into a back that looks built to dominate ball and starve the Gloucester backs. Scott MacLeod returns on the bench, where Rob Vickers covers loosehead prop.

 

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Dom Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.

 

Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Rob Vickers, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Scott MacLeod, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Phil Godman, 23 Alex Crockett.

 

 

Gloucester have made four changes from the side that beat Northampton, with a frightening three-quarter line looking for more than scraps from Jimmy Cowan and Freddie Burns. If we are to win this game, it will most likely have to be from the forwards winning their battle and exploiting any holes or errors from the away backline. It could be a long afternoon, but whether it will be a successful one we will see. Some light entertainment might ensue if Mike ‘Just a rubbish Jamie Noon’ comes off the bench, hopefully he won’t have the last laugh.

 

Gloucester: 15 Rob Cooke, 14 James Simpson-Daniel, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 1 Dan Murphy, 2 Darren Dawisiuk, 3 Shaun Knight, 4 Tom Savage (c), 5 Will Hames, 6 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Matt Kvesic, 8 Ben Morgan.

 

Replacements: 16 Koree Britton, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Rupert Harden, 19 Elliott Stooke, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Dan Robson, 22 Mike Tindall, 23 Charlie Sharples.

 
The (current) weather forecast is for sunshine on matchday, so all of those who wanted Sunday afternoon games have a chance to prove themselves correct that it will be more successful than Friday nights. Other than that, a win would be very welcome in hopefully giving the team a bit more daylight away from the relegation places.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Leicester Tigers 31-6 Newcastle Falcons

IMG_0786

Saturday 21 September 2013 – 3.00pm

Welford Road, Leicester

Aviva Premiership #3

In some ways the score didn’t reflect the game yesterday, the Falcons played with a lot of heart and never let their heads drop. They continued to attack late on but again could not find the key to unlock a Premiership defence.

Then again, that is a bit of a concern. On top of that, I never felt like Leicester ever really got out of second gear yesterday, and that had they been forced to step things up, they would have done so. The gap in quality between the two sides was clear.

It was very much a routine victory for the Tigers, who got their five points through some simple yet very effective play, a mixture of the power of the forwards and of course Manu ‘bunny ears’ Tuilagi, who punches holes in our defence all afternoon, and the guile and speed of Dan Bowden and Toby Flood.

The relative ease of the win was reflected in a subdued atmosphere at Welford Road, something we travelling Geordies have got used to there over the years. The home fans were no doubt saving themselves for the derby against Northampton in two weeks, although I am told that one Tigger was so riled by some cheerful and cheering Falcons fans that he reported them to a steward.

After two early tries, the Falcons managed to keep in touch with Leicester for most of the first half and were 12-6 down after Rory Clegg’s half-hour drop-goal on a rare visit to the home 22, though to me this seemed like a sign that our team were not confident of scoring a try. Minutes later, Blaine Scully had extended the lead and the bonus point came after half-time.

The difference in the two teams became apparent when the substitutions started – Leicester brought on Lions Dan Cole and Geoff Parling. With respect, Gary Strain and Sean Tomes aren’t near the same level.

There were a few good performances from the Falcons – Carlo del Fava had one of the best games I’ve seen him play for us, making some great tackles and putting in some excellent work in the loose. In the back row, Mark Wilson continued his good start to the season, and if he can keep this form up then surely a Saxons call cannot be far away. Warren Fury has massively improved his service since the regular season in the Championship, he looked again like the player we saw in the play-offs.

Of the backs, Alex Tait was again the pick for me, and many home fans were also complimentary about his performance. Any idea that he cannot take a high ball or tackle (an accusation nobody can now level at Noah Cato, incidentally) must now be dispelled.

One of two players I won’t name did not have great games, sadly, but nobody gave up and that cannot be said for every team we have sent to Welford Road in the past.

In the end, no travellers seemed to disappointed yesterday. Skybet had Leicester 1-200 to win and there is a big gulf between the two teams that, if it will be bridged, will take several years. We can do it but it will take time. If we were to get nothing out of the game points-wise yesterday, then at least there are positives such as a solid scrum and some dynamism from several players, as well as lessons of what needs to be worked on and also the need to be utterly clinical at this level.

At least it’s only Gloucester at home next week, the last time we lost that one we had Flood and Parling in our team.

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons

tigger

Saturday 21 September 2013 – 3.00pm

Welford Road, Leicester

Aviva Premiership #3

The annoying thing about being in the Premiership is that you get games like this – games where you have to use all of your imaginative effort to visualise a win, and even then it normally a defeat.

Our last win away to current title-holders Leicester was back in the Championship-winning season 1997/98 on Dean Richards’ last game in a green, red and white shirt.

Pat Lam scored two tries for the Falcons that night along with one from Nick Popplewell, while Rob Andrew kicked two conversions, a penalty and a drop-goal. Apart from a penalty try, all of Leicester’s points came from the boot of Joel Stransky. Richards was joined in the home side by Craig Joiner, Richard Cockerill, Martin Johnson and Neil Back alongside other internationals, and Lewis Moody came off the bench for wor Deano in the second half.

That game was only our second away win over the Tigers, the other coming way back in 1977 when Gosforth’s success had been exemplified by the addition of Leicester to the fixture list. There was also a violent 16-16 Friday night draw in October 2005, which few people in attendance will ever forget for several reasons – Harry Ellis’s cynical charge on Jonny Wilkinson, a penalty by Matthew Burke that never was, and red cards for Andy Perry and Julian White. The Falcons’ try scorer on that enthralling evening? Robbie Morris.

Falcons in LE2:

20/09/1969 Club Match                            L6-48

31/03/1975 Club Match                            L15-18

11/04/1977 Club Match                            W18-6

13/03/1982 John Player Cup QF              L9-18

19/04/1986 National Merit Table Division A     L15-56

28/02/1987 John Player Cup 4th round   L6-19

16/04/1988 Club Match                            L0-65

12/03/1994 Courage League Division 1  L5-66

30/12/1997 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1W25-19

12/12/1998 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1L18-31

12/02/2000 Allied Dunbar Premiership 1L26-34

17/03/2001 Zurich Premiership               L7-51

13/04/2002 Zurich Premiership               L12-20

21/09/2002 Zurich Premiership               L9-52

26/09/2003 Zurich Premiership               L21-28

19/02/2005 Zurich Premiership               L10-83

14/10/2005 Guinness Premiership          D16-16

27/01/2007 Guinness Premiership          L5-39

26/01/2008 Guinness Premiership          L14-41

20/12/2008 Guinness Premiership          L3-20

19/09/2009 Guinness Premiership          L6-15

27/11/2010 Aviva Premiership                L19-44

04/02/2012 LV= Cup                                 L19-24

Leicester gaffer Richard Cockerill is still in the midst of his matchday coaching ban for a malfeasance (if that’s the right word, I’d never heard it before yesterday) at the Premiership Final back in May when he got a bit radgie on the touchline.

No doubt he’ll be getting quite passionate while watching the game anyway, as apparently his fellow DOR and ex-hooker Steve Diamond was while we were beating Sale last weekend.

So far this year the Tiggers have, like ourselves, won one match and lost another in the Premiership. A routine opening weekend victory over Worcester by a score of 32-15 came at a price with Tom Croft sustaining a season-ending injury in the bonus-point win, and this was followed up by a 27-20 loss at Bath on the 100th anniversary of the fixture.

Niki Goneva, Ed Slater and Steve Mafi scored for the Midlanders at the Rec while scrum-half David Mele knocked over a conversion and penalty, but former Welford Roader George Ford’s five penalties and scores from Jonathan Joseph and Matt Banahan gave the hosts the win.

Ford’s transfer from Leicester to Bath this summer was rather unusual in that previous players to make that journey had been towards the end of their careers, namely Dan Hipkiss and Lewis Moody, although fellow half-back Micky Young did go with him. With Toby Flood named as Leicester captain this season and Ford starting the season strongly in the South West, he looks to have made the right decision so far.

No point going through Leicester’s star-studded squad, as the team below is shocking enough, but suffice to say it is brimming with internationals and has a strength in depth that most Premiership clubs, never mind we, can only dream of. Former Falcons players are many, from Lions star Geoff Parling and England’s Flood, to former Newcastle youth player Fraser Balmain and of course the revitalised Mathew Tait.

OK, so there aren’t that many right now, considering James Grindal, Micky Young, Kieran Brookes and Ben Woods have also passed through the door on Aylestone Road in recent years, but it’s a few.

Dean Richards has sprung a couple of selection surprises for tomorrow’s game with James Fitzpatrick and Chris York starting. For Fitzy, it’s a chance for redemption after a yellow card in our last visit to Welford Road, in February last year, and he replaces the injured Danny Barnes. Oliver Tomaszczyk’s illness sees Kieran Brookes back in the front row alongside Rob Vickers, and Mark Wilson and Carlo del Fava are in the starting XV. Dom Barrow moves to the second row in a team that looks built for power through the middle but pace on the outside, and Rory Clegg makes a first start of his second spell in the North East alongside Warren Fury.

There are, surprisingly if there are no injury reasons, no Ally Hogg, Scott MacLeod and Mike Blair in the 22.

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Adam Powell, 12 James Fitzpatrick, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Rob Vickers, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Dominic Barrow, 6 Mark Wilson, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Chris York.

Replacements: 16 Matt Thompson, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Sean Tomes, 20 Andy Saull, 21 Chris Pilgrim, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Alex Crockett.

Captain Flood and Lions Manu Tuilagi and Ben Youngs start tomorrow for Leicester, alongside some other considerable talents. Jordan Crane in the back row has had some immense games against us over the years while Dan Bowden at centre is a crafty player who can make something out of nothing in a second. I mentioned strength in depth – compare the two benches if you’re not of a nervous disposition.

Leicester: 15 Blaine Scully, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Dan Bowden, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Toby Flood (c), 9 Ben Youngs, 1 Boris Stankovich, 2 Neil Briggs, 3 Logovi’i Mulipola, 4 Ed Slater, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Jamie Gibson, 8 Jordan Crane.

Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Tom Bristow, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Julian Salvi, 21 David Mele, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Niall Morris.

It’s going to be tough, but as Adam Powell said in an interview yesterday, these are the games we’re in the Premiership for. Lets have a good sing as we always do at Welford Road and, with a lot of effort and belief, who knows what might happen?

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match reaction: Sale Sharks 14-15 Newcastle Falcons

Salford City Stadium

Friday 13 September 2013 – 8.00pm

Salford City Stadium, Salford

Aviva Premiership #2

 

That was much better! As I thought more about last week’s game against Bath, I wondered whether it had passed the team by somewhat, whether at the end of the game they wished they could play it again.

 

Well, last night their heads were screwed on and they silenced a home crowd that was vocal in getting behind Sale in the first half. A performance of grit and commitment, of defence that said “Throw everything you have at us, but you are not getting through”. One of the most enjoyable parts of the game for me was after the clock hit zero at the end, and with Sale picking and driving desperately to find some gap on halfway, the Falcons must have driven them back ten or twenty metres. It was beautiful to watch.

 

We’re seventh in the league now, going into the rest of the weekend’s games!

 

So matchday was another roadtrip from the village of the damned. I was a bit late leaving the house as I tried to find a decent pair of shoes, and also my CDs that were in one of many boxes still not unpacked since our move north. I’m getting a bit bored with Now 74 disc one.

 

Eventually I found Now 33. Looking at the back I saw that it included ‘He’s on the Phone’ by St Etienne, the greatest song in history. After picking up the missus in Lancaster, I said we should save that until the trip home from Salford to celebrate.

 

There were speed restrictions and a couple of tailbacks on the motorways around Manchester along with the customary rain for that part of the country, but not long after six we were in the Unicorn pub enjoying a nice cold Brown Ale, and then pie, chips and gravy on the walk to the stadium. One truck driver was so hungry he tooted quite vigorously as we crossed the road in front of him!

 

Salford City Stadium, or the AJ Bell Stadium as it is apparently now known, is a nice ground, with a bar on the outside of the big stand (by big I mean twice the size as the other three) and a good view from behind the goal, where the standing Falcons fans were situated. For one night only, we were the North Stand Choir. The stadium will be better once they get some stuff built around it, as the area is a bit desolate at the moment.

 

Nobody else seems to understand either why it was built near a motorway junction rather than a train station when apparently Sale and Salford have a “moral and legal obligation” to encourage people to use public transport.

 

The Fosters under the main stand was dodgy, but the Strongbow was working. The tiffin cake went down well, even if the writing got a bit skewed. The Sale-supporting kids in front of us certainly liked it.

 

Sale started the stronger but there was an atmosphere of optimism in the away end, and it took a controversial yellow card for Dom Barrow for pulling a maul down – a maul I am told he was not even a part of – to allow Sale to steal in for a try near the end of the first half. But at 11-9 down at the break the game was in the balance. It seemed to have gone pretty much as I expected, with our forwards on top, particularly in the scrum, but Sale’s backs attacked at pace and one thought that if they could find a gap then they could score, as indeed happened.

 

In the second half, Sale’s morale seemed to drop a bit and the home crowd quietened, while the away fans smelled blood. Phil Godman looked far more confident than last week and his kicks from hand were far more accurate. As was his radar for goal, as his fourth penalty put the Falcons ahead for the first time.

 

This is when I really start to get nervous – I’ve gone from looking at the clock and thinking “It’s OK, we’ve still got 25 minutes to score” to thinking “Oh no, they’ve still got 25 minutes to score”. Time to use some of that thought manifestation stuff.

 

But even when Sale went back ahead, the Falcons kept their heads up in a way they didn’t against Bath and the travelling fans kept roaring them on. Eventually Rory Clegg, who looks a class act and should, in my view, be straight into the team for Leicester, knocked over the winning kick.

 

Sale probed but I never felt like they really looked like scoring. As I’ve said, when they were picking and driving in the final seconds, the Falcons were driving them backwards and finally we got the relief of the full-time whistle.

 

It was a merry drive back up the M6, and the phrase “party bus” was heard from more than one suppy bus traveller.

 

The Sale fans are not too happy, judging by their message board. I suppose they wouldn’t be – they’ve just beaten Gloucester away so are clearly not a bad team. But for the Falcons, we now have a platform on which to build in the rest of the season and a boost ahead of Leicester away, one of the hardest games of the season. Can’t wait for that one.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

Match preview: Sale Sharks v Newcastle Falcons

Jaws-1

Friday 13 September 2013 – 8.00pm

Salford City Stadium, Salford

Aviva Premiership #2

 

The Falcons’ first away game back in the Premiership sees a meeting of two clubs that had very different starts to the season. Less than 24 hours after we were beaten 0-21 at home to Bath last Friday, Sale, relegation candidates for many, pulled off a stunning 16-22 victory at Gloucester.

 

Leading 3-14 at half-time, the Sharks held off the Cherry and Whites in the second half to get off to a brilliant start in the new season. Mark Cueto’s early TMO-given try was built on by a penalty from Nick MacLeod and two from new signing Tom Arscott in the first half, and though a Henry Trinder score and Freddie Burns’ boot made things tight in the second half, Andy Forsyth scored a second try for the Mancs and Joe Ford’s drop-goal sealed victory with ten minutes to go.

 

In 2012/13, the Sharks finished tenth in the Premiership table on 35 points, level with ninth-placed London Irish and two points above Worcester. They survived relegation by 12 points, with London Welsh only gaining 23. Tenth was a big disappointment for the faithful at the Salford City Stadium after sixth place in 2011/12.

 

Sale head coach Bryan Redpath, who has had a tricky time of things under controversial director of rugby Steve Diamond. Diamond’s squad does not contain a large number of stars, although one of the biggest names is Danny Cipriani, most recently seen at Kingston Park on Monday night when our reserves played Sale Jets. Mark Cueto, who so nearly scored in the 2007 World Cup Final for England, and former All Black and Worcester Warrior Sam Tuitupou are other stars in the Sharks’ employ, as is Welsh international scrum-half Dwayne Peel.

 

Unlike many other clubs, Sale do not have a large number of former Falcons, with Rob Miller being the name that will be most familiar to Geordie fans. Lock Josh Beaumont and winger Charlie Ingall are both former Falcons youth players and each played a handful of first team games in blue and white last season.

 

Although tomorrow night will be our first visit to the Salford City Stadium, the Falcons do not have a terrible record away to Sale compared to some other Premiership opponents.

 

Our most recent victory was the glorious evening in April 2010 that secured our Premiership safety that year. On that evening, Grant Shiells and Kieran Brookes both started their first Premiership matches and set the platform for an exciting and exhilarating 30-32 victory for the Falcons. Jimmy Gopperth and Micky Young both scored tries, while captain Gopperth converted both and added six penalties.

 

That was the latest of 14 wins we have away to Sale since the two clubs first met back in 1951, at the Sharks’ spiritual home of Heywood Road.

 

Falcons at Sale:

31/03/1951 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L11-12

14/03/1953 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L11-14

26/03/1955 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L12-23

23/03/1957 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L6-10

04/04/1959 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L6-17

25/03/1961 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L12-19

23/03/1963 Heywood Road          Club Match                            W14-6

05/03/1966 Heywood Road          Club Match                            W6-0

02/03/1968 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L15-21

07/03/1970 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L9-24

04/03/1972 Heywood Road          Club Match                            W29-12

02/03/1974 Heywood Road          Club Match                            W19-12

03/04/1976 Heywood Road          John Player Cup SF               W12-3

05/03/1977 Heywood Road          Merit Table                            W19-6

03/03/1979 Heywood Road          Merit Table                            D0-0

07/03/1981 Heywood Road          Northern Merit Table           W17-0

05/03/1983 Heywood Road          Northern Merit Table           L6-18

02/03/1985 Heywood Road          Merit Table                            L6-21

07/03/1987 Heywood Road          Northern Merit Table           L6-7

11/03/1989 Heywood Road          Courage League D2              L15-23

16/11/1991 Heywood Road          Courage League D2              L15-19

05/03/1994 Heywood Road          Club Match                            D16-16

20/01/1996 Heywood Road          Club Match                            L12-50

18/10/1997 Heywood Road          AD Premiership 1                 W33-26

23/01/1999 Heywood Road          AD Premiership 1                 W28-20

06/05/2000 Heywood Road          AD Premiership 1                 L17-45

02/09/2000 Heywood Road          Zurich Premiership               W27-19

08/09/2001 Heywood Road          Zurich Premiership               L11-37

03/01/2003 Heywood Road          Zurich Premiership               L3-38

23/04/2004 Edgeley Park             Zurich Premiership               L16-41

05/11/2004 Edgeley Park             Zurich Premiership               L25-39

02/09/2005 Edgeley Park             Guinness Premiership          L25-26

29/09/2006 Edgeley Park             EDF Energy Cup                    L5-28

17/11/2006 Edgeley Park             Guinness Premiership          W26-18

20/04/2008 Edgeley Park             Guinness Premiership          L10-53

06/03/2009 Edgeley Park             Guinness Premiership          W32-25

23/04/2010 Edgeley Park             Guinness Premiership          W32-30

03/09/2010 Edgeley Park             Aviva Premiership                L18-35

26/12/2011 Edgeley Park             Aviva Premiership                L19-27

 

 

Fraser McKenzie will take on his former club on his Falcons debut tomorrow night, partnering Scott MacLeod in the second row. Will Welch is back in place of Andy Saull and Adam Powell replaces Jamie Helleur. Matt Thompson and Oliver Tomaszczyk come into the front row.

 

Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Adam Powell, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Dom Barrow, 7 Will Welch (c), 8 Ally Hogg.
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Kieran Brookes, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Carlo del Fava, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Rory Clegg, 23 James Fitzpatrick.

 

Sale include former Falcons Rob Miller and Josh Beaumont on the bench, but there is no place for Danny Cipriani after Monday’s reserve game at KP.
Sale: 15 Tom Arscott, 14 Phil Mackenzie, 13 Mark Cueto, 12 Andy Forsyth, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 1 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 2 Marc Jones, 3 Henry Thomas, 4 Johnathan Mills, 5 Michael Paterson, 6 Dan Braid (c), 7 David Seymour, 8 James Gaskell.

Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Kirill Kulemin, 20 Josh Beaumont, 21 Will Cliff, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Rob Miller.

 

 

This might turn out to be an eight/ten-pointer come the end of the season with both teams having been tipped to be in the relegation battle, and the Falcons will not want to let a big gap open up to the Sharks, so it should be an interesting game.

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)

A League: Newcastle Falcons 26-18 Sale Jets

IMG_0690

Monday 9 September 2013 – 7.00pm

Kingston Park, Newcastle

Aviva A League North #1

Some people have been saying that the Falcons have got their ticket pricing wrong – this weekend I think they just got it the wrong way round. They should have let people in for free on Friday night and charged £25 last night, for what was certainly a far more enjoyable match.

 

I suppose it’s easier to enjoy reserve matches sometimes as the results do not really matter that much yet there is still the competitive element missing from many first team friendlies, but still, KP witnessed some fast-flowing rugby as the Falcons second team beat their Sale counterparts to kick off the A League season.

 

After playing host to Gavin Henson on Friday night, the KP pitch saw another ‘flawed genius’ last night in Danny Cipriani who started in the Sale number ten shirt and showed some nice touches, kicking well and making metres with the ball in hand. No monster drop-goals like the one he scored against us at Adams Park the other year though.

 

For the Falcons, Joel Hodgson and then Rory Clegg controlled things well from fly-half for 40 minutes each, while Chris Pilgrim impressed me again when he came on at the break. My main criticisms of him were his box-kicks often getting charged down and being slow to get the ball out of rucks, but neither seemed a problem last night, as they didn’t in the B&I Cup Final in May. Obviously the Premiership itself is a different thing but it’s a start.

 

Mark Wilson will be pleased that he has put a marker down for the first team game against Sale in Salford on Friday night with a try and an all-action performance overall. James Fitzpatrick also had a stormer in the centres and bar one loose pass I don’t think he dropped a ball all night. That’s something that probably does not depend on the quality of the opposition so well done to him.

 

Several fans were impressed with Sean Tomes who seems to have leaned up further over the summer and showed a bit of pace that probably I never thought he had. The power coming from the second row no doubt helped our scrum dominate the Jets’ pack in the tight for much of the game. Gary Strain, George McGuigan and Scott Wilson will have had a confidence boost after coming under a lot of pressure against Bath on Friday, the props at least.

 

What was perhaps most pleasing is that our team actually looked worthy of the word, rather than a collection of individuals drafted in from local clubs and universities and thrown onto the pitch, as has often happened in the past. With several first team players coming back from injury and perhaps smelling an opportunity to play themselves into the first XV after the Bath debacle, there was cohesion and no small amount of hunger, which translated into an exciting performance and a positive result.

 

Being able to work from home now, I might be able to make more of these games, and I see there is one the night after we play London Irish next month. For now, the next reserve game at KP is this Monday against Leicester. It’s free, rugby and there’s beer (though you have to pay for that), what could be better to shake off the Monday blues?

 

 

(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)