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)