Friday 6 September 2013 – 7.45pm
Kingston Park, Newcastle
Aviva Premiership #1
It’s that time of the year again – well, if we were being picky, it’s that time of the year for the first time in two years for us. The start of the Premiership season.
Like our last season in the big time, the Falcons start at home to Bath, a team that finished seventh in the Premiership last year on 53 points. I’m not sure when we last had that many points, but the last time we finished seventh was 2006, and I’m sure all of us would settle for that come May, as it would most likely represent a good victory in the battle against relegation.
That battle begins tomorrow night in a match that we have not won since October 2003 – before England had ever won the World Cup. Since then we have beaten Bath at the Rec twice, but never at KP. Eight successive home defeat to the Bathplugs.
While the Falcons were losing to Edinburgh in Hawick last Friday night, Bath were wrapping up their own summer schedule by beating Ospreys 27-10 at the Rec. Though the home side were down at half-time despite a Matt Banahan try, scores from Leroy Houston, Semesa Rokoduguni and Ollie Devoto gave Bath the win alongside seven points from the boot of new signing George Ford.
Ford partnered Peter Stringer at half-back, and the Irishman will be competing with another former Falcon Micky Young for his shirt this season, the Hartlepooler following Ford southwestwards from Leicester this summer. Young joins former Falcons David Wilson, Tom Biggs and Ross Batty at the Rec.
Who could overlook former Falcons manager Gary Gold’s biggest name summer signing though: Gavin Henson, who has already made his mark in his nice new home city by annoying a team-mate.
Of course, Bath and the Falcons only met recently, in a friendly in Beziers last month. That game ended in a 21-21 draw. Bath’s other friendlies saw a derby day win over Bristol at home, and a defeat to Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade, though Bath will have the chance for revenge against the Welshmen having been drawn in the same group in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Although it’s just over 16 months since we last played in the Premiership, we have relegation as an excuse. Bath have not won away in the league since the opening day of last season! After a 23-24 victory over Worcester at Sixways, a 12-12 draw at Exeter just after Christmas was the only time they avoided defeat on the road in the Premiership in 2012/13, though there was a notable success in the derby against Gloucester at Kingsholm in February as well as wins in Europe away to Calvisano, Bucharest and Agen.
For his first Premiership game in charge at KP, Dean Richards gives starting debuts to Danny Barnes, Mike Blair, Franck Montanella, Andy Saull and Dom Barrow, while Phil Godman and Kieran Brookes start on their returns to the North East. Ally Hogg, who will be raring to go after a brilliant season in the Championship last year, is captain in Will Welch’s absence, the latter’s injury meaning we must wait to see how he and Saull are played in real action.
Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Noah Cato, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Jamie Helleur, 11 Tom Catterick, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Mike Blair, 1 Franck Montanella, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Kieran Brookes, 4 Carlo del Fava, 5 Scott MacLeod, 6 Dom Barrow, 7 Andy Saull, 8 Ally Hogg (c).
Replacements: 16 Rob Vickers, 17 Scott Wilson, 18 Gary Strain, 19 Mark Wilson, 20 Chris York, 21 Warren Fury, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 Adam Powell
Anybody wanting to see the orange one at KP may have to wait until later as Henson has been named on the bench alongside Batty, Biggsy and Young. Wilson and Stringer are starters however, with George Ford, Matt Garvey, Leroy Houston, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson all making debuts in the first XV.
Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Kyle Eastmond ,11 Matt Banahan, 10 George Ford, 9 Peter Stringer, 1 Paul James, 2 Rob Webber, 3 David Wilson, 4 Stuart Hooper (c), 5 Dave Attwood, 6 Matt Garvey, 7 Mat Gilbert, 8 Leroy Houston.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nathan Catt, 18 Anthony Perenise, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Alafoti Fa’osiliva, 21 Micky Young, 22 Gavin Henson, 23 Tom Biggs.
The Falcons are hopeful of a decent crowd tomorrow night so lets pack KP and roar the team on to a first victory back in the top division, and get the future off to a great start!
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)